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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 questions were posted on 3/20/01 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted. Do note the new e-mail address in the right hand column in case you do decide to write.

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.

Ryan writes: Well my first trip to DCA wasn't as disappointing as I had thought, but that's not why I'm e-mailing you.

While I was on Superstar Limo (what was I thinking going on that) the ride just happened to break down. After sitting in front of Drew Carey for about 10 minutes, a cast member arrived to evacuate us, and give us a walking tour of the rest of the ride.

Well at the end of the ride she pointed out the hidden Mickey for the ride. It's a piece of popcorn on the wall in the premier room (after Whoopi). She also pointed out that one of the people pained on the wall is Paul Pressler. I was just wondering if you wanted me to send you the pictures I have of the hidden Mickey once I get them, or if it's any good for that matter.

Also, there was some sort of situation on California Screamin. The ride performed an E-stop on the first hill, the one immediately after being launched. I heard and saw the stop as I was waiting for the Golden Zephyr to start, but I noticed that the car was still stuck on the lift with people on it about an hour later. As I walked by that section of the coaster, some maintenance men were climbing the lift with bungee cords to evacuate the riders. I don't know if that's unusual or not, but I thought it was interesting.

Anyways, thanks for sparing your time to read my ramblings. I love the site, I don't know what I would do without it (since my friend Master Gorsh has seemed to stop updating his site. Maybe he's just depressed about the Country Bear thing). Anyways, thanks again for your time.
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A.

Thank you for the kind note Ryan - if you do have the time, I (and I am sure the readers) would like to see your photos. We'll run them here in this section if and when you do fire them off to us. You can skip the Pressler one - if you don't mind. ;)

There have been a LOT of problems with the rides at the new park - and this after a shakedown period they had that ran months before the park officially opened too. Nightly it seems, the coaster breaks down at least once or twice - which seems quite often to me. What with the Zephyr shut down when the least bit of wind hits, and the Mad Mouse down for the next few months - what little left that does operate should be more reliable if they want to keep the customers happy.

Don't worry about Master Gorsh either - he's probably busy with school and such. I just said hello to him this past Sunday as a matter of fact.

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Q.

Bill writes Just thought I'd let you know what kind of reputation the DCA park is building up here in Northern California.

We just had a personal family Tragedy and had decided that we (my wife and Family) needed a break and a change of scenery. At an event we attended in relationship to this tragedy I had mentioned to several people that we needed a break and that I thought flying down to SoCal to take the kids to Disneyland and to see the new DCA my be just what we needed. The responses went from, "I just had a friend return from DCA and they thought it was awful" to one of my friends who just returned from an Anaheim convention and said he wouldn't go to DCA again because their just wasn't anything to do" to responses such as "for the money I much rather just go to Disneyland (or it was just a rip-off)"

They all agreed that I would be better off going to Disneyland and skipping DCA altogether, unless as one person mentioned that I might want to visit it for the curiosity factor. Out of the 4 or 5 responses I received I did not get one positive review.

I honestly expected Tepid responses towards DCA, what surprised me was the extremely negative responses I had received. I think part of this might come from the fact that If you are traveling from out of the area and you have all the expenses that go into paying for airfare and hotels these people expected an experience that would make all that expense worthwhile, instead they felt like they were being misled by the promotions or feeling just plain ripped off.

How long will it be before this word of mouth spreads to travel agents and others in the travel business? As for me, I am debating whether I should skip DCA and just take the family down to San Diego and see the Zoo and save the cost of admission.
 

A.

First Bill, my deepest condolences go to you - I hope you've had the time to get a break from what must have been some bad news for your family.

As far as what you are hearing about the new park I think Disney is just now starting to fathom just how negative the response has been from recent visitors - but as with any company where the leaders are so very removed from their customers, they are blaming everyone and everything except themselves for what is going on.

I deal with many writers, agents and others in the travel industry in the course of day to day operations of the site - and never have I had such agreement with the opinions I've been expressing here as I've had on California Adventure. Come to think of it, the last time they agreed with me so closely was when Disneyland had that one season mess, Light Magic.

As far as planning a visit to the Disneyland Resort, the return of the Annual Pass ticket media this past weekend allows you to consider purchasing a two park "hopper" admission. I've found most folks like the idea of these more workable tickets over the flex passes, and if they usually visit during the week, they can schedule their times around the blockout dates the cheaper tickets impose quite well.

A big advantage with a two park annual pass is that if you really are disappointed with the new park, you can always hop on back over to Disneyland and its better quality offerings without any problems.

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Q.

"N" writes: Dear Al, May I just say first that you and your fellow MousePlaneteers are doing a great job with the site! I read the site every day and find it very informative. Being the big Disney fan that I am, it's a great site.

Anyway, I wanted to share my thoughts about the park to you. I have been going to Disneyland ever since I was five. Many of my happiest memories of childhood are there.

It was only fitting that my first job (and still is my job) is a Disneyland Cast Member. I really enjoy my job and I have a lot of fun talking to the Guests and making their day at the park better. My philosophy is "They paid over $40 to get in here. They should be entitled to only the best in service." But, the executives at Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) don't seen to realize this.

After reading your update about FastTrack today, I was absolutely appalled. To think a little child could see one of the costumed CMs (or partially- costumed CMs) at a restaurant cursing up a storm with their buddies just infuriates me. I even saw a girl with a Fantasyland coat on the other day at my school. Needless to say, I was just in shock. I know that some CMs may find it easier than standing in line, but that's the way things work at Disneyland. If one doesn't like it, they should quit.

I commend Ms. Harriss for trying to instill the Disney Guest Service code into new CMs, but it's not enough. In my eyes it is hypocrisy because one sees the amount of neglect the park is getting and one wonders if they really mean what they say. Why is it so hard to Mr. Eisner, Mr. Pressler, and Ms. Harriss to realize the quality is what sets us apart from other entertainment venues. Sometimes one must spend money to make money. That was Walt's philosophy. When will they realize that they don't work for the shareholders. They work for the Guests.

I don't work for the higher-ups, in my eyes. I work for the Guests that pay over $40 to come in and have fun. If their not happy, I try to help them be happy. I treat each Guest as a VIP, like Walt did. It's funny to mention that other CMs that work around me often ask, with a funny look on their faces, "What are you doing?" or "Why did you do that?" I then reply, "Because Walt once said it was the right thing to do."

I think if Ms. Harriss, Mr. Pressler, or even Mr. Eisner stepped out into the park (without an entourage), looked around, talked to Guests, talked to CMs, they would realize that things need to be done to enhance the Guests' experience. Hey, it worked for Walt. Why can't it work for them?

Thank you for taking the time to read this, Al. I only hope it helps the execs realize who and what really counts in the Disney experience. Let's hope they take the initiative and try to undo all the wrongs.

Take care an keep up the good work.

P.S.: I have some nifty info for you about the Pooh / Critter Country dilemma. According to the people I talked to yesterday, the Bears will still have a home in the land. However, one of the theaters will be used for part of the Pooh ride.

There is a lot of space in backstage Critter Country (believe it or not) and they're going to build the Pooh ride inside and around it. Teddi Barra's Swingin' Arcade and the Brer Bar will be consumed by the Pooh Corner shop in to a giant "Pooh-porium." Needless to say, this is one part of the project I wish they'd scrap. Let's hope they update the bears, too..
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A.

Thank you for the kind note!

I know many people at Disneyland, just like you, that continue to try - day in and day out - to maintain the quality Disneyland has come to represent over the years. I also know how much harder it's been to do that, in particular since Frank Wells died, Eisner began to lose touch, and Paul Pressler has spread his lack of interest in quality across the division. Sadly, there's a lot of "it's just good enough" attitude coming from on high, instead of the push for quality this company used to represent.

Your ending note about the Critter Country adjustments does seem to fit into the rest of what I've been hearing will happen in this land. Space behind the Arcade / Brer Bar is very limited, but they do seem to have plenty of room back behind the Bears' theaters themselves. Keeping one theater with the Bear show would help keep the park tied into the upcoming movie they are planning around the characters in the attraction, which is a good idea.

As far as a new show for the Bears, I wouldn't hold my breath, unless they can find a way to bury it into the movie budget. I understand the recent change in the Disneyland Design Studio (what with Tony Baxter being nudged out by Barry Braverman and his staff) means that we'll see more rubber stamping of things by park designers of the increasingly out of touch concepts shot out by the executives like Pressler.

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Q.

Arstogas writes: RE: your article of 3/19/2001

>>>Tower of Terror - originally planned to be across the entry plaza from the Hyperion Theater - has now been apparently moved to another location in DCA - behind the Chinese restaurant in the Pacific Wharf area. <<<

An excellent idea, depending on the theming they come up with. I can see a Haunted San Francisco hotel that never existed... But more importantly, the potential (depending on placement) is that this could ACTUALLY obscure the Anaheim Convention Center and the buildings nearby... creating a "berm" of sorts with an actual attraction. I find it hard to believe that this is not part of the thinking. A lot of folks I know, who have visited DCA and who don't seem to have much Pixie Dust invested, are STILL talking about how you can see the outside world from the park, and that this is not the case at Disneyland.

Funny, you think people never notice the good things, but take them away, and they notice in a hurry!
 
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A.

While I like the idea of blocking the view of the outside world - I still think it could be done with another attraction other than the Tower of Terror.

The Tower, and it's spooky surrounding ambience was a highlight of my last trip to Walt Disney World / Disney MGM, the ride itself almost secondary to the amazing theming job done on it that so totally enveloped you.

One of the ideas I heard that was being thrown around for the Tower of Terror (besides making it an actual wing of the hotel planned for that area) was to even go ahead and "haunt" certain rooms of the hotel itself with some neat effects that would randomly kick in overnight, hotel visitors could choose a "haunted" or regular room upon check in.

To me that kind of unique idea is what people pay Disney prices for, and would not be something you'd seen anywhere else. The idea of a Hollywood Hotel would more naturally lend itself to many more entertaining ideas for the haunted rooms than the Wharf area could provide. The nice thing about this is that the haunted rooms could go for a higher rate, something that would be music to the execs ears - this alone could make for a push on their end to have the concept happen.

And visitors do notice the awful view out of this park - no matter how blinded Pressler claims they are by all his shops and restaurants.

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Q.

Catching up three short questions all in one space here:

Robert writes: You got something wrong on fast track.... we (the cast members) don't clean the costumes.... we bring, our bag full of dirty clothes and exchange it for a fresh set... NOT wash them at home... and certain costumes, still aren't gonna be fast tracked... at least not till next year.

Tom writes: Please note that the phone number for Disneyland ticket purchases, 1-800-232-7976, has been disconnected with no forwarding number listed.

Susan writes: On a quest for new personal checks I wondered if you know if any company that makes Disneyland checks? Thanks!
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A.

For the first two notes: Thank you for the clarification guys - one of the blessings of our readership at MousePlanet is how helpful everyone is in making sure we have the most accurate info available for folks.

Susan, right now there are no checks with Disneyland imagery on them for the public. (Although I do think Disneyland Cast Members can get special park themed checks via the Disney "Partners" credit union.)

If you do need a Disney check fix, the company has finally begun to license characters for personal checks now to the Deluxe company - you can see the four designs they now offer, and order them on line at THIS LINK. (Look for the Disney button on the page.)

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Q.

Allen writes: Dear Al, Thank you for a wonderful web site. You are my first read every morning. Thank you for letting me know that the DCA / Disneyland combo annual passes are once again available. But, you did not mention the prices the various types of passes go for. And how about one-day park hopper passes? Are they going to be made available to the general public instead of just resort hotel guests? If so, how much will they cost?

Speaking of prices, if DCA management people are really serious of fulfilling the attendance figures for both the winery and Avalon Cove restaurants, then they should consider going back to Disneyland's old ticket book system where the guest pay a nominal admission fee ($5) to gain access to the park and use their tickets to go on the attractions (exhibits). The restaurants can then take off the $5 admission fee when the guests eat in their restaurants. This way guests from both Disneyland and Downtown Disney can eat at these two fancy restaurants for no extra cost (except for the high price of the food of course). What do you think, Al?

Anyway, thank you again ol' friend.

P.S. I give you permission to use my first name (Allen). The last time you posted my letter, you called me Paul. I hope you did not mean Mr. Pressler!! ;) Thank you..
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A.

Allen, thank you for the kind words.

We have annual pass pricing information on the passes available on the site at THIS LINK. Annual Passes are generally available to all visitors, with any exceptions noted on the page. I can't imagine what with their current mindset that they'd offer a one day hopper ticket right now.

I couldn't agree with you more about the idea you have to allow folks to enjoy the shopping / dining the new park offers at a reduced rate if they are not interested in the attractions. Sadly though, this "out of the box" thinking is no longer allowed at the company. One can hope both Mondavi and Wolfgang Puck can exert some kind of pressure to allow outside visitors in to just dine in some manner if they expect to survive. What with the tabs one can run up in these joints, you'd think they'd still be ahead anyway even if they comped the park admission after the meal.

My apologies for not using your correct name before - as all webmasters do, I tend to reuse old pages when I create new ones, and sometimes when I flow new text into an old template, I forget to change over all the info, including a name here or there. The wrong ID was in no way intentional, heavens I wouldn't even name my dog after Paul Pressler if I could help it. ;)

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Q.

Peter writes: Al, Well, I've been going to DL for about 20 years, and I realize that the park has changed a lot since the first time I went. The question I have for you is what can we do to make our concerns about the lack of a Disney experience known, or heard or felt? Is Pressler really that bad?

I just had a daughter, and have always dreamed of taking my kids to DL. Now I need to worry about her seeing things there that she could easily see up here in Berkeley!!
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A.

Right now Peter, the company at the executive level is turning a deaf ear to the many complaints they are getting like yours. They "know what is best" and don't want to concern themselves with the quality of the product (in particular in the theme park division) especially if it means going over budget or spending more. The lack of upkeep at the parks is a very visible indication of this.

This is not to say there aren't any people at Disney who do want hear what you are saying - there are plenty still there who are increasingly more worried about the abandonment of the higher standards they used to so diligently maintain.

The best thing is to keep being the squeaky wheel - to keep expressing what you as a customer expect - reminding the suits of why their product can command such premium pricing in the first place. Insist on quality and don't settle for less than the best.

It can be done without being a burden on other visitors and in ways that will communicate to them pleasantly and clearly your expectations of them.

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Q.

Gina writes: Our first trip to Disneyland was seven years ago. It was the 40th year of Disneyland. They had a parade going with Mickey and Minnie in a little car and the song they were playing was called Cruising the Kingdom. I have tried to get a copy of this song and haven't been able to find it. Can you help me? Thank you.
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A.

I remember seeing this track on a Napster listing once - but since this is pretty much considered stealing (please no lectures folks, I used to make my living in the music biz) I don't know what other options exist to try and get this song at this time.

Let's see what our readers have to suggest here - I know it didn't make it onto an album, nor did it make it onto the Disneyland Forever make- your- own- CD kiosks either (most parade tracks were too expensive rights- wise to make it).

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Q.

WDIWED writes: Hello, Al - Do you think if you were to actually sit down face to face with Barry you would be as snide in person with him as you are behind the safety of your keyboard?

You've got it all wrong about Barry. There are many other factors involved with the very complicated culture of theme park design that you can't possibly understand if don't work at Imagineering. Barry is a hard working, resourceful and creative individual who is fully aware and supportive of all of the hallmarks of a Disney park that are constantly harped on in your columns.

Theme parks aren't born perfect - even Disneyland was not. You can be assured that Imagineering is already aware of the problems you see with the parks, and there are plans in place to deal with the situations.
 

A.

Actually I don't dislike Barry.  I don't even dislike Paul Pressler. I think they are most likely very nice folks who quite simply are in the wrong jobs. And yes, snide I may be some times in this forum, but what I have to say is kinder than what most visitors have been spouting after recent visits to the new park. Ask the folks in guest relations if you don't believe me.

Some readers can misunderstand what a critic's job is - which is to point out both the problems and positives they observe in their chosen subject and offer insights to readers based upon their own experiences on both what works and what doesn't. For example, thanks to my experience over the years as a visitor, I don't really have to know about how a park is designed to understand that a bathroom should only have one way in and out of it to help prevent parents being separated from their children. Many folks may not always agree with what I may see as good or bad, but they do acknowledge I have the right to offer my opinion, and they do have the right to ignore it also.

I do understand parks are not born perfect. But California Adventure is fundamentally flawed. The concept is a bad one down the the core, which no matter how much time, attention and good intentions are lavished upon it will always have problems to overcome. Look at it this way, Disneyland has lands that serve as springboards to all- encompassing creative concepts. California Adventure on the other hand is straight- jacketed by its way too narrow concept in what it can offer.

Many of these problems were noted way ahead of time not only here, but within the Disney company too. To go ahead and spend money on things that were seen as unworkable by even the most neophyte of observers, only have to spend more to fix them later, was just a plain waste of company resources.

My main criticism of Braverman (from what I have observed here) is that he did not challenge this fatally flawed concept with the Eisners and Presslers of the world. He pretty much did as he was directed. I'm not faulting his hard work to make this project happen, as it was formidable. He just should have been able to better communicate to these guys that they were barking up the wrong tree with this poor quality concept.

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Q.

David writes: I really enjoy your site and agree with much of what you say. One thing that I think you're overlooking when talking about attendance numbers however is the current state of the economy. Not that I'm defending Disney and the way their every move is dictated by the almighty dollar, but you can't ignore the drop in the stock market and the higher energy costs and their effect on the spending money of the average consumer.

This time last year, the Nasdaq was well over 4,000 - now it's hovering below 2,000. A lot of people lost a lot of money. Sales in almost every category of the economy are down, so I don't think you can rule out the possibility that a lot of consumers are putting off those trips to amusement parks in favor of less expensive entertainment such as a trip to the movies. Maybe that's why Disneyland attendance is down too. Plus, the weather has been almost nonstop rain here in So Cal since DCA opened.

Finally, DCA doesn't have a "killer attraction" that visitors just can't miss. Even California Soarin' is just a motion simulator when it gets right down to it. Compare it with Spiderman though. Seeing what an amazing job Universal did with Islands of Adventure, Disney ought to be embarrassed with DCA, which seems like a county fair in comparison.?
 

A.

David, thank you for your kind note, you bring up a lot of good points in it.

One very interesting observation made to me (by a reporter) was that in a way the opening of a new theme park can be compared to opening a new movie. If you have a concept that excites people when talking about it, and take the proper care to build public anticipation for it - you'll have a hit opening on your hands.

I understand now that Eisner is saying in recent interviews that the economy is to blame for the new park's lackadaisical numbers. It's a classic observation from someone who will bode no arguments from anyone in the company anymore. (When you can't argue with the boss, you can't hash out the problems well enough I feel.) And keep in mind that Disneyland itself IS meeting numbers set for it for the most part.

Personally I think it was a deadly combination of things. The weather didn't help, the concept didn't excite, and the advance buzz was piss- poor. The real killer most likely was in applying blindly the Florida pricing model (and small opening attraction roster) in a consumer market that is exactly the opposite in locals / tourist mix of what is offered on the East coast.

Pressler seems to keep thinking that he can duplicate Orlando in Anaheim - when each coast pulls in a very different mix of customer types. Yes, it's cheaper to do it that way. But it doesn't acknowledge that it may be wrong for the consumer base here.


The following questions were posted on 3/14/01 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted. Do note the new e-mail address in the right hand column in case you do decide to write.

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.

GramPa Bob writes: Hi Al... I thought I would share an e-mail that I sent to Disney. It is something that has been on my thoughts since my wife and I visited DCA at one of the Cast Member previews. I have now committed it to word on paper, and have been sharing it around with some of my many contacts.

It has been received well, so I thought it was time for a wider audience, so I started with Disney proper, and now with you, and Kevin. Thank you for your time

Disney's Downtown California

It has come to be known that Disney's California Adventure has received at least fair to good reviews on the restaurants and eateries and merchandise shops, and so-so to questionable reviews on the Theme Park experience (the ride quantity and quality).

So why don't you capitalize on your strengths, and merchandize your weaknesses. Separating the rides and the true attractions out to themselves, possibly to be accessed by the old ticket book system.

That would make them stand or fall by themselves (and give you an opportunity to actually evaluate a given attraction's guest appeal by it's individual profitability).

Now here is what will make this whole thing work. Combine everything that is not a true ride or attraction with Downtown Disney, and call it something like "Disney's Downtown California".

Make the whole area free admission, with the rides and attractions being on a per use basis. There could even be a "day ticket" for the rides and attractions (that could come close to the standard admission price, but it would feel to the guest like he had choices).

The guest could choose the level of ride and attraction experience he preferred. But, in the mean time, capitalize on the new Parks strong points, eating and shopping, and merchandize the rest.

If you really intend to build a third park, do a truly "Disney" job on that, and make THAT into a true "second gate". When combined with the "Disney's Downtown California", you would have a truly unique and desirable guest experience.

Now when you factor in the Convention Center's apparent growing success, you have an additional draw that didn't cost you anything, but could not help to be of great benefit to each of you (Disney Resorts and the Anaheim Convention Center).

I am an ex-cast member with experience in three of your divisions (Attractions and Security and Guest Relations), and have been a guest at Disneyland on a regular basis since it's second year of operation, and, as such, I have a lot of first hand knowledge about how the guest reacts to the different ways that they are treated.

It is pretty well known and reported that the Disneyland Resort is utilized by about 60 percent local folks, and that you (the Disney management) would like that figure be more like 40 percent.

To use your words, you want it to become a "destination Resort", but that does not happen by issuing a press release. You have to produce something that we want to plan and save for, and there is now a lot of competition for our time and money. You no longer have a corner on the Theme Park market (and in some ways, you are your own competition). The next step is yours.

I am aware that making a change like this has more then a few ramifications (like the free parking for the current Downtown Disney), but that is why they pay you the big bucks. You can handle it, you can figure it out.

GramPa Bob

GramPa Bob also writes: I'll bet you have been swamped with this info, as an addition to your update dated today...

The new policy of allowing cast members to pass in guests with the gate passes, is a bit more restrictive then you implied. They may only do this on Mondays through Thursdays, still specifically blocking out Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays.

My wife is a 40hour full timer, and I also heard this repeated from my friends in Security yesterday, when I was there passing in some friends of mine. I'm an Ex Security and Attractions and Guest Relations (over seven calendar years) cast member.

While I was waiting for my friends to show up Sunday, I overheard a family going into DisneyLand, that they were not going to DCA, because there were NO rides for kids... The word IS out !

Also while I was waiting, I noticed that there was no energy surrounding the entrance of DCA, the folks were just wandering in, but at DL, the folks were all a-buzz, and there was an excitement there... Interesting...
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A.

Wow Bob, you said concisely just what the public seems to be telling Disney in their surveys about the new park. I like your idea of just charging for the rides, and letting you wander the rest of the mall type of areas to shop and dine.

One very telling number is that since California Adventure has opened, they have not exceeded 10,000 in ticket sales on any day. Anything in attendance beyond that has been the few Annual Passholders that upgraded before the pass freeze.

We're still waiting for a good solid stretch of nice weather and of course Spring Break - but it hasn't been looking good.

By the way - I got word today that Disney is now clamping down on attendance numbers in order to quiet down any talk of problems with the resort expansion. If numbers are given out - they are specific to certain areas so that "leaks can be quickly traced."

I guess they don't understand that photos of empty walkways can also convey the same message?

And thank you for the clarification on the CM attendance options for the new park - many times I get information in advance and it can change a bit between my first getting it and then going up on the site. It's one of the hazards of bringing you breaking news sometimes that Disney changes their minds.

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Q.

PP writes Love you updates, I read them religiously. You mentioned in your latest update that Disneyland / DCA passes may be changing to park hop passes. I am going to Disneyland / DCA April 20, and I am wondering if I should hold off buying my flex passports until a later date. I am not staying at a Disney hotel, so if the passports change, it would totally benefit me. Thanks for the info, and keep up the great work! :o)

Ruben writes I will be taking my grandkids to Disneyland on Friday March 30 this year and need information on a Flex pass for Magic Morning. We will not be staying in any of the resort hotels. Also, there is a chance that we can be in the Anaheim area in the afternoon around 5 pm. Does Disneyland have a lesser ticket price after a certain time during the day? I would use this time to see the fireworks and parade and do the rides the next day. Our party consist of 4 adults and 2 children, ages 4 and 6....
 

A.

Right now for both of you, I would hold off on buying any tickets until you arrive at the resort - precisely because things may change. There may be some major announcements in the next few days, and a change in the type of admission media offered could be among them.

Currently there are no park hoppers - Southern California Resident Salute discounts - or any "after 4 PM" reduced pricing available at this time.

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Q.

Christopher writes: I am writing an essay / report on the economy and income of Disney world. It would be nice if i could add the number or people that enter Disney a day, the amount of money that Disney world makes a day, and the number of clothing merchandise that Disney sells in a day within the parks. If you cannot obtain this information can you please tell me where to go or who to ask.
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A.

Chris, I'll throw this one out to the readers - hopefully someone out there can fire off a response to me that can give you some ideas.

The only estimates I can offer are "a lot!"

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Q.

Ed writes: Last week was my daughter's birthday, and I offered to take her and her friends to a local amusement park of her choice to celebrate. I suggested DCA, knowing that attendance would be light. They opted for Knotts.

There's your trouble: all the hype, the TV specials and the McDonald's ads could not convince an 11-year old that DCA was worth the effort on a special day..... she said there was "not enough to do there."
 
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A.

It's amazing just how much e-mail is coming into MousePlanet that echoes what you just expressed there Ed. Visitors are coming back stunned to say the least.

Now get ready for more California Adventure types of attractions and tone at Disneyland proper - since Barry Braverman (the main guy behind DCA) has been promoted to overseeing Disneyland for Imagineering.

It seems from what I hear that Barry does as he is told so even though he delivered an under- whelming new park. So he got booted up to reward him. Apparently it seems that Tony Baxter had stuck up for the quality and theming a bit too much for current management's taste.

So in the future Tony will be less involved with Disneyland and the design studio, and Barry will get his fingers into the park to do more things like Innoventions and all the other types of lower quality / budget projects he was famous for at Epcot that delight Eisner / Pressler and increasingly disappoint consumers.

In other words, look for the further mall-ing of the happiest place on earth.

Sigh...

-

Q.

Christine writes: I am very very interested in going to the Disneyland Nightmare Before Christmas Haunted Mansion event in October. Since we live in Oregon I would need to plan early to coordinate with jobs and school. Where can I find out more about this event???? We went to Mickey's Halloween treat in 1995 and loved it tremendously. Please let me know who / where to find out about this fabulous event..
-

A.

Yes, the rumor is that we are also getting a merchandise event for the Nightmare Before Christmas makeover of the Haunted Mansion. Expect some kind of major celebrity to join in - like, oh, say... one of the major names who dreamed up the Nightmare concept in the first place. ;)

You may want to bookmark Adrienne Vincent- Phoenix's section of the MousePlanet site "All About Merchandise" - she's our columnist covering these events for us. I know she's been just terrific at getting the word out the minute she finds out about anything.

-

Q.

Rich writes: Just curious to know if MousePlanet will continue to report on DCA attendance figures in the future. Haven't seen an update lately. It would be interesting to know if attendance is up, especially on days like today with the sun out.
-

A.

As information is available, we'll report it. This story is really shaping up to be quite interesting. Yours is only one of hundreds of letters asking the same question.

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Q.

Matt writes: Al, I really hope you can answer this. On Space Mountain, I cannot remember the last time I went on the ride when the soundtrack was on. And I visit very often, but cannot recall when I last experienced the ride with the soundtrack. Do you have any idea what happened to it? The ride is incredibly more exciting with the soundtrack!
-

A.

I agree Matt - the ride is more fun with the soundtrack. But Disneyland is now operated in a different manner - basically any upkeep or maintenance on what management considers "non essential" components of attractions is now routinely deferred. My impression is that Cynthia Harriss, who used to fight for this kind of stuff, has simply given up.

Sadly it was deemed more important to install a revenue generating ride photo machine this last rehab than fix the music - which was hobbled since day one due to an attempt to save money when it was originally put in.

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Q.

John writes: I love all of the Disneyland desktop pictures you have on the site. However, I've noticed it's been awhile since you have added any. Are there plans to add more soon, hopefully some from both parks?

Devin writes: I stumbled across your site one night in a hotel room in Nashville TN. I was in the process of moving my Fiancé and daughter to Massachusetts from Los Angeles where we were Gold Season Pass holders. That was in October. I immediately book marked the site, and have been an avid reader ever since. I knew that there were people like me out in the world, but I never knew how many! Thank you for keeping me in touch with my "Lost Love" and for creating a community that I am happy to be a part of. But enough of that, right? On to my question!

We have been mulling over a Disneyland wedding. Have you or any of your other writers been to, or have been married at Disneyland? What about the new hotels? What are the pitfalls? What are the highlights? Is it worth the money? What about weddings at Universal Studios?

I think that this would be an awesome article for someone to write. I am stuck on the East Coast or I would volunteer my time and do it. Hopefully I'll be able to read about this soon.

Keep up the excellent work.

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A.

Keep an eye on us. Now that the opening of California Adventure is past, and we've been making some tweaks and adjustments around here, we'll have some new things to announce very soon. :) (And thank you for the kind words Devin.)

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Q.

Gee writes: I still don't have a clear idea of the new Disney park. Do you think five year old boys will like it. I appreciate it if you can email me back since we are planning to be there at the end of the month.
 

A.

Actually Gee, we did cover that issue already here on MousePlanet, via Adrienne Krock's very informative Parenting in the Parks column titled: What's a Kid to Do at California Adventure? She provides some great advice as to what may / may not work for children of that age.

I can tell you in advance that lack of enough things to do for children of this age group in particular has been a real sore point with many visitors.

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Q.

Cal writes: Where is Jim Hill? I don't see his column in today's edition of MousePlanet? Does he still write for you?
 

A.

One thing we can all count on in life is change, and Jim is now working on a new project. Everyone here at MousePlanet wishes him the best.


The following questions were posted on 2/16/01 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted. I know it's been a while since I did this, but thankfully we've gotten the opening of the new park behind us. Do note the new e-mail address in the right hand column in case you do decide to write.

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.

Jolie writes: Any idea why Disneyland would schedule a refurb on Pirates & Blue Bayou right before Fat Tuesday? I tried to send e-mail to the park via their website but the form on the page doesn't seem to be working (maybe too many DCA complaints overloaded it?).

It just seems odd that they would start it the day before Mardi Gras (why not wait the 2 days to start on things), or am I the only person who would want to spend Fat Tuesday in New Orleans Square?
--

A.

You've pointed out one of the problems with current Disneyland management, they have some remarkable short- sightedness when it comes to natural tie- ins like this. (Especially since I remember them doing something modest for Fat Tuesday in the past.) Let's hope reminding them this year about it will have them think ahead for next.

As far as California Adventure [DCA] complaints - well there haven't been all that many, yet. The place has been deserted - so much so that they even eliminated the customary one hour of shopping before closing most nights to tighten up the budgets a bit.

It's too early to start saying there are any problems - this President's Day weekend (if it stays dry) and Spring Break should really tell the story.

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Q.

Brandy writes A friend of mine went to buy an annual pass yesterday and was told that sales of annual passes have been suspended. The CM did not know when they would resume selling them. Do you know the story on this?

Chris also writes Al, thanks for your hard work on this resource.

I'd like to add some information to your article on Fastpass for out of town guests or locals who visit infrequently. My understanding after talking to several Cast Members on many visits is that if an attraction goes out of service during your Fastpass time, the time is noted and Cast Members are instructed to consider your FastPass valid for the remainder of the day.

Perhaps I am wrong, I asked a few times at DCA previews near park opening because, as expected, the popular attractions like Soarin and Screamin had downtime. Maybe the policy is different for Disneyland.

Finally, while your site is a great resource, I must admit I couldn't find something I figured I could find. I have heard about the Annual Passports being discontinued for some time... (indefinitely I guess). I hoped to find your commentary on what happened, why, and perhaps if they will come back (this move has left some family members out in the cold while others have passports... go figure). However, I scrolled and scrolled and clicked, and pardon my ignorance, but found nothing.

Thanks for your time, good luck with your Disney resource...

 

A.

Thank you for the kind words Chris, and for the extra info on Fastpass. The policy you mention seems to vary - sometimes they go ahead and honor the passes, many times during DCA's previews, they did not, due to the long standby lines.

We do have the annual pass info on the site - it was just on our news page instead of being added to our annual pass page. I've quoted the two items here again here below for your information:

2/3/01 2 PM PacificMousePlanet: Disneyland Resort Annual Passport Sales Suspended.

MousePlanet has learned today that the Disneyland Resort has made the unprecedented decision of suspending all Annual Passport sales and upgrades to its Anaheim parks. Renewals remain available. Our columnists have confirmed the news by speaking to Disneyland Guest Relations Cast Members both at Disneyland City Hall and through the published phone number.  

Rush transcript of statement from the Disneyland Resort  - 

The Disneyland Resort, including the Disney Store, will no longer sell or update any Annual Passports. To ensure that all of our guests have the best possible experience while visiting the Disneyland Resort theme parks, we have suspended the sale of Disneyland Resort Annual Passports until further notice. This change does not apply to our current Passport holders, who may continue to renew their existing Annual Passports.

The main entrance will only renew current Annual Pass holders to their same pass type.

Expired renewals will only be allowed for 30 days after the pass's expiration date.

No upgrades will be allowed, neither to the Two-Park or from one type of pass to another.

No upgrades of daily tickets to Annual Passports.

We want to provide all of our guests an opportunity to visit our two theme parks during the opening year of the resort expansion. Limiting the sale of Annual Passports will ensure that more guests have the opportunity to visit the parks. In addition, because of this program's popularity, we wish to make Annual Passports a more special experience by limiting their numbers.

We expect the expanded resort to be extremely popular with our guests, particularly during its opening year, regardless of whether or not we sell Annual Passports. We have suspended the Annual Passport sales in order to allow more guests the opportunity to visit the resort.

2/5/01MousePlanet: Disneyland Resort Annual Passport Sales Halt - New Information.

MousePlanet has learned that the Disneyland Resort has made some key changes to the recent policy on Annual Passes. Our columnists have confirmed the news by speaking to Disneyland Guest Relations Cast Members both at Disneyland City Hall and through the published phone number. Below is the latest:

Disneyland has decided that they will NOT split up families. If a member of your IMMEDIATE family (i.e., living in your household, sharing the same name) has already upgraded, you will be allowed to upgrade as well. Here are some examples that may help explain this:

1) Husband / Wife, where only one person upgraded. The other spouse can upgrade, either to the 2 park pass or to a higher level of pass (to match their spouse)

2) Children / Parents, can upgrade to the highest level of pass that any of them have. If Mom is a 2-Park Premium and little Billy is a one park SoCal, Billy can be upgraded.

3) Toddlers getting their first pass. If Mom or Dad is an AP, a toddler just turning 3, and thus needing an AP for the first time, will be allowed to buy the same pass as their parents have.

Keep in mind folks, if attendance remains slow at the new park, that pass sales may be reinstated rather quickly. Rumor originally had a five month suspension planned (until September) but annual passes could come back as soon as next week ("due to overwhelming demand!" of course) if the new park's attendance numbers for President's Day Weekend and Spring Break don't meet their expectations.

Passholders end up being the park's bread and butter in the off season, even though some of the folks there hate to admit it.

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Q.

Chris writes: Let me first say that I have been a daily reader to MousePlanet ever since I discovered it. All of my other Disney bookmarks have been deleted because of the quality of your site. I have been planning a trip to Disney for almost a year now and had considered canceling because of the condition the park seems to be in until I came up with a good reason to go.

If you would welcome my help I would be willing to send you a trip report after I get back (sometime around the first of May - I noticed there aren't many current reports out there) and I would also like to submit pictures of some of the decay - or repairs if any are going on - for you to post on your site. The DisneylandBlues site has not been updated since June of 2000 and faithful readers like me would really like to see ongoing pictures of the condition of the park.

I could also give you a very good child's perspective of Disneyland and California Adventure from the point of view my 5 children (ages 5,6,7,9,and 12).

Keep up the GREAT work on the site.
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A.

Chris, I would welcome a trip report about what you think of the park in its current condition. Frankly, the only reason I haven't updated DisneylandBlues is because nothing much has changed - they pretty much have not painted anything except Main St. (for the recent press event) and installed Fastpass stations everywhere since I first put the site up.

MousePlanet has done two recent stories on the sad state of the Tiki Room (David Koenig and Jim Hill) and also discussed the deteriorating Haunted Mansion, and it just does not seem important to Eisner / Pressler / Harriss to get this stuff worked on.

You may want to forward the child's review of the parks to our Parenting in the Parks columnist, Adrienne Krock. I'm sure she would welcome it for her part of the site!

-

Q.

Mel writes: Hi Al, I was reading MousePlanet today and discovered that AAA members can enjoy a great price for children ages 10 and 11. Since Disneyland now charges children ages 3-9 the child rate (vs. the aged 3-11 prices in previous yrs), it listed AAA members can purchase these children tickets under the old rules for the rest of this yr. I have made a local call to our branch here in Mass and 8 long distance calls to AAA national headquarters and LA offices etc to get pricing. No one knows anything about these special aged tickets as discussed on the website.

Can you please tell me how I can obtain such a pass for my child? I am only interested in a 3day pass. The LA office strongly advised me that the only Disneyland child tickets they offer, are for children ages 3-9 and not to 11 as stated on MousePlanet website. They said it is the same throughout AAA nationwide.

I also found another difference from MousePlanet web info on # day Pass (Disneyland) vs. the official Disney.com site on Disneyland Pricing (and actual calls to Disneyland directly). It seems that the adult and child prices listed on the MousePlanet website differ from the actual prices of the park itself.

The MousePlanet web site lists $99 / adult and $75 for children (w / MKC rates of $93 and $69). There is no more MKC, and those other rates have gone up as well. The Disney.com site lists current prices as follows: Adults $111 and children ages 3-9 $87 ea for a 3 day pass.

Am I missing something?
 
-

A.

This was updated a while back, but it appears a file was uploaded onto the site with older information - overwriting the new one. We'll correct this to reflect the more current info you have obtained.

The AAA pricing was in effect until each branch ran out of those tickets - which now appears to have happened. Thanks in advance for understanding!

-

Q.

Brian writes: Hey there Al, thanks again for keeping us all up on the opening weekend for DCA. I have been following your site since DCA was first announced and, simply put, no one did it better than MousePlanet! THANK YOU!!!!

My worst nightmare is starting to materialize.

We all knew that DCA would cause a mixed reaction from consumers, and by the looks of the low attendance on opening weekend, that prediction has come true. I was disappointed from the get-go that this was the most imaginative concept that Disney could come up with for the new park. But all of our disappointment now needs to shift directions or our favorite park, Disneyland, could be in severe danger.

With the economy dropping and numbers that could possibly be way under for DCA this year, Disneyland is going to be neglected to get the new park worth seeing and visiting.

There is something we all need to remember. Disney is a company and not a guaranteed stable one. I am so mad that they have put Disney in a volatile position by opening Disney's first "average" theme park. It shows the lack of care and respect that the higher-ups have for their own company. For the next generation, the name Disney will no longer spell out "quality." That's sad.

My point, Disneyland is not financially safe just because it's Disneyland. If DCA goes under, it takes Disneyland with it. That's the sad fact; Disneyland is no longer just Disneyland, it's now the Disneyland Resort. In some way, we need to rally around DCA if for no other reason but to support our favorite getaway; Disneyland. But this will be the hardest thing that I'll ever support Disney through. Unfortunately, we'll have to.

Thanks for all of the great and HARD work Al.
-

A.

Brian, thank you for the kind words. There were a LOT of people here at MousePlanet who were responsible for the DCA coverage, they all appreciate your comments. It's always a team effort around here all the way.

As far as DCA, it's still to early yet to call it a failure - we need to see how it will perform over the next two big holiday periods, and then over the summer. I have some idea of how it may go (the site generates a LOT of feedback, and it's eye opening, to say the least, what people think / perceive about the new park) but I want to see the numbers, as does everyone else.

Any weakness in the new park will affect Disneyland though - you can bet anything planned for "the original" will be scuttled to pour money into the problem child across the way until it does what it should do. That's just a sad fact of life.

As far as "rallying" around DCA, it would be a LOT easier to do if a] it were priced more along the lines of what it is actually worth (both admission and food) and b] they offer more to do - in particular some type of major attraction like a Pirates or Indy scaled offering.

The good thing I guess is that Rick West and I are no longer just the only ones complaining about it. ;)

-

Q.

Buzby writes: Dear Al, I just read your latest update regarding the attendance figures for Disneyland and DCA. The solution to this attendance problem, as well as the complaints about the new park in general, seems simple to me: make DCA part of Disneyland's admission ticket.

Think about it ----- DCA is mostly shops and restaurants anyway. Disneyland is, in fact, pretty small ---- and DCA is downright tiny. Put them together and you have a park that is about the size of Epcot. This solution would certainly make Disneyland in general seem like a good value ---- and the combined parks could charge a single admission fee of $50 (or hopefully less).

Think this is insane? Check out what Six Flags Ohio recently did. They bought Sea World Ohio, which is right next door to them. The two parks will combine into one super park (and lose the "SeaWorld" brand name ---- though retain most of the sea life) and admission to the "big" new park will be under $40.

Combining Disneyland and DCA seems less expensive than furiously trying to expand DCA, which would seemingly cannibalize guests from Disneyland.

Hopefully Disney will be watching and learning from Six Flags Ohio.
-

A.

Actually Buzby - I made mention of that in my review of the new park "Half Park, Full Price." My suggestion was to offer a DCA ticket as a $20 add on to your Disneyland admission (or comparable pricing upgrades on multiple day flex passes).

This lower pricing would continue until surveys would determine when the park could generate a comparable admission price - allowing of course for increases to the $20 base each time they added something major (not just another shop, carny ride or beer truck.) ;)

Unlike in Orlando, where a park hopper type of ticket allows you the luxury of just heading somewhere else if a place bores you (and Animal Kingdom I understand is sending them away in droves - they had eight million FEWER visitors this year than last) the Anaheim resort is still very dependent on day visit locals for their business. But both Pressler and Eisner seem to not want to hear that.

By the way, I plan to have an update to my review up soon - as they have finally debuted a new version of the Hyperion Theater show "Steps in Time" (sigh) and tweaked some other things at the park.

-

Q.

Frank writes: Hello, I was just given a link to your site and found it intriguing. I wanted to add my 2 cents to the DCA debate.

When I first heard about the plans for a second theme park I didn't live in Southern California. I did however think to myself that it was probably pretty smart to create a second park in order to maximize the profitability of the Disneyland Park.

I later read a story in the Wall Street Journal about the missteps that Disney had been making. Letting Katzenberg go, no really good projects in the pipeline, ill timed stock split and this park (DCA).

The author of the article said that over the years Disney had made a reputation for itself by creating parks and attractions that were different than Six Flags or Busch Gardens. The author also claimed that the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland and Disney World were guided by Walt's vision and his intense dislike of the Coney Island and Santa Monica Pier type of attractions. The author claimed that Walt was looking to create a place the whole family could enjoy.

If that is true then it would seem that current Disney management has lost sight of the founders vision. This seems to be echoed throughout the company. The submarine ride at Disneyland immediately comes to mind as a case where current management seems more occupied with dollars and cents than Imagineering.

Again, my opinion, Knott's Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, Busch Gardens, or Six Flags will always have better flume rides, roller coasters, Ferris wheels than DCA could ever have so it would seem that the designers of DCA were short on vision and merely out to separate more money from the guests in Anaheim. This reminds me of Las Vegas, where the gambling industry is there merely to separate one from one's cash.

In closing, all of my friends who have gone to DCA on the preview days said, it's a nice park but not nearly worth the $43 admission price. They've also said, if this were done by Six Flags or Magic Mountain, it would be great but we expect more of Disney. Unfortunately, Disney seems to be missing the mark more and more these days.
-

A.

Frank, you don't know how many e-mails I have gotten just like yours.

I had the chance the other night to listen to the survey folks as they were questioning visitors on the way out of DCA, and almost to a "T" they heard people say they were unhappy with the price / value mix of this new park. I suspect a good deal of that was many of the thoughts you expressed above, they may have not known how to verbalize it as you did. Simply put, DCA looks nice, but it doesn't wow you like Disneyland does.

Disney "magic" is a rather unique thing.  It's expensive as hell, and can evaporate like ether with just the mere grimace of a less than optimal cast member.

The magic has gone from the Disney company in the past - there was a time there in Burbank, Anaheim and Orlando where it lay fallow, until Eisner came in and shook things up a little.

I think now maybe it's time to do a little more shaking up at the highest levels of the company. I know lots of other people both in and out of the organization feel the same way.

-

Q.

Brad writes: Do they offer fast passes through the Grand California Hotel, if you stay there? I reservation for June 4th - June 9th. Thank you for information, I check it everyday.
-

A.

I'd first written the following when the column went up:

So far not that I know of - yet. But keep checking with the hotel. With the attendance so far, I don't think you need worry too much, always keep in mind to get Fastpasses first for Soarin' and Screamin' (the IMAX glider film and the big coaster) and the rest of the park should be a breeze.

MrShiny, a kind reader, then updated me later on the same day with the following info:

Al, they do indeed offer Fast Passes at the Grand Californian with a package. I have reservations for June and have 1 Fast Pass per person right on my confirmation.

You have to book via the Walt Disney Travel Co. from what another reader wrote to me - and not the Disneyland Resort directly. If you can specify a Fastpass - make sure you ask for Soarin' - that's the one ride with major capacity issues.

-

Q.

David writes: Thank you so much for the advanced look at the New Disney "adventure". Thanks to you, my family and I will not have the unpleasant experience of spending thousands of dollars on a vacation to this destination. We have cancelled our hotel reservations and changed our airline reservations to a friendlier destination to be determined later.

I'm sure many others who are wasting their money on DCA would have loved to see your site before they booked their trip.

Keep up the good work.
 

A.

Wow, that's a drastic step David - but if the park doesn't seem to appeal to you, I can understand how you feel. From what I have been able to find out, advance reservations have been ok, but not at the levels the company was expecting.

I suggest visitors at least stop by the resort and take a look at DCA first - then if you feel as strongly afterwards as you did above - go to guest relations at the entrance and have them accommodate you in some way. (If nothing else to allow you to enjoy the rest of your day at Disneyland across the esplanade.) There are some people who love this park - the impression is that it's just not in the numbers they had expected.

Disneyland Park itself is still a remarkable value for the price, especially when they have something going on at night like "Fantasmic!" or the wonderful "Believe" fireworks show. It's a shame they wouldn't provide an admission combo park ticket that would reflect the lower value the new place has to offer the visitor that could allay some of the rancor.

-

Q.

Kymberli writes: Hi Al. I've been a big fan of your DIG site for a while now and have enjoyed the expanded format of MousePlanet and the coverage of the opening of DCA. I can't wait to see it for myself.

Just a quick question for you - I can't seem to find a link on the MousePlanet site for the Fabulous Disney Babe. I searched all over and nada. What gives? Did she stop writing for you guys, take a vacation, or what? I miss her! Just wonderin'...
 

A.

Michelle (The Fabulous Disney Babe) is now working on a new project, and everyone here at MousePlanet wishes her the best!


The following questions were posted on 10/18/00 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.

"M" clarifies: Al -- Regarding the current training of Attractions Cast Members [CMs], I must say that the "two hours of training" is only partially correct, but taken way out of context.

It's true that the very first day of "Disneyland Resort Orientation" is an 8 hour day, and now includes just two hours of "in-park" orientation, with the remaining 6 spent at the Disney University going over Cast Member- related issues and questions. Previously, CMs got about half of that day in- park (4 hours), and the other half in the auditorium; at least that's how I remember it from my Orientation June, 1998.

But that only paints a small part of the story.

The next day, those hiring into attractions go through an 8-hour day of "Attractions and You". Though I've not taken this class myself, I'm not sure if ANY of it is in-park (or ALL at the Disney U, like my "Welcome to Entertainment" was), but that's another 8 hours of specific Attractions- realted training.

THEN, CMs are scheduled for "on the job" location training. This is the real meat of their ride- operator training, and isn't represented anywhere in the "two hours" assertion. The amount of "on the job" training varies by the attraction, but I'd say the norm is two full days of location training (for the sake of argument, in Toon Town, attractions CMs learn all of the Toon Town attractions, so I'd wager there are probably three 8 hour days scheduled there). This is where their real training is--the "two hours" of Orientation training the first day is just the layout of the park, guest services, etc. The RIDE training comes during the "on-the-job" part of the training, which currently is 24 hours for the major groups of rides, and 16 for most single rides.

"J" clarifies further: Just have a few comments on the attraction's training that you say has been cut back. I think you're a little misinformed on this one.

You mentioned in the past that Orientation has been cut from 6 to 2 hours. That's really not true. Orientation is still 8 hrs. What was cut from 6 to 2 was the on- site walking tour of the park, where trainees ride rides and do little role-playing games. Anyone would be hard pressed to claim that this has any impact on "safety". New hires still receive 8 hours of orientation at Disney University, then at least 8 hrs in their specific department, then several days at their specific location.

I'll give you an example: a cast member would get 8 hours of general park training at the Disney University, then 8 hours of general attractions training at "Attractions and You", then say 3 days of training at Jungle Cruise, or 5 in Fantasyland, or 3 at Space Mountain, or 3 at Matterhorn, or 1 at Tarzan's Treehouse, or 2 at Mansion.

That last part, the location specific training, has actually gone UP dramatically in recent years. In fact it hasn't been decreased on a single attraction, park-wide. Also, the rate at which CMs are being signed-off has also gone dramatically down. Training criteria has been strictly maintained on many attractions, most notably Space Mountain. Many CMs go through 3 days of training, possibly an additional 4th or 5th, and still are not certified to operate the ride, and sent elsewhere in the park. It has become a common practice to re-cast CMs to other attractions because they simply can't handle it. The implication that a Roger Rabbit CM is trained on the ride in just 2 hours is just plain false... ;)

As for the park using different languages. I have a bit of an excuse... er, explanation. ;)

I understand that it has become a legal issue. If the park is only in English then a non-English speaking person cannot claim that they were not instructed in the safety procedures, because it is their responsibility to speak the native language. If the park uses 2 or 3 different languages, but not say, German, then a German guest has a legal claim that the park didn't do its best to inform them of the safety instructions. The German guest can say, "Well you did it for the Spanish and Japanese, why not me!?!?" I know it seems ludicrous, but its the case in this litigious society we live in. :)
--

A.

Thank you both for helping to clarify the current attraction training schedules at the park. It's a great help to the MousePlanet readers.

I still have a question though - much of the feedback I got from past cast members about current training for attractions is that it was cut back from levels common before Paul Pressler took over Disneyland, (then the resort division).

Although current schedules have been increased the past few years, they apparently still do not come up to what was in place in the past. Also the Columbia accident brought to the forefront the less-trained management personnel "filling in" for trained CMs on attractions - which was quite common until that incident.

I think I will hand this one off to Kevin Yee, who maintains the Cast Place section of MousePlanet - so we can see if we can contact any CMs from before Pressler's era to gather their recollections about the training schedules.

And it's sad about the legal issue on the languages isn't it?

-

Q.

Michael writes Al, First off I would like to give you a huge thumbs up on your more than informative history / info on a place I have loved since I was old enough to remember it.

I usually visit the park at least 5-6 times a year and have noticed recently that the condition of the park is declining. This definitely saddens me. I remember being 9 yrs old and reading any book I could find on Disneyland or Walt Disney. When I would come to the park with my parents, I would plan it out, I had my trusty "guide to Disneyland " book and my park guide from my last visit. I would sit down and plan it all out, From the first ride to go on, to when I would stop for an apple juice at the old Apple juice cart in the back of Frontierland, to our last stop which was usually either, Space Mountain or Splash Mountain. My youth was Disneyland and my love for it, but now as I grow older and have a child of my own, Disneyland is losing it's touch.

It was never dirty or worn down looking, The shelves' in the shops were never bare. I don't ever want Disneyland to turn into Knott's or (UGHH!) Magic Mountain. Disneyland made you feel like you were in another world, not just another place of gates and ride's. I truly hope Disneyland will once again rise to it's former glory (like bring back the damn Electrical parade already!!) This site and your D-I-G have shown me, and I hate to say it, The evil under belly of the Disney world. I had never heard of the evil Paul Pressler, or the fact that they have been using one of the Monorails for parts, instead of restoring the one's they have.

How is it that a company like Disney, has no money? I sometimes load up this site and contemplate whether or not I want to expose myself to the info you provide. I want to be wowed by Disney again. I don't want to hear about paint chipping and sticky ride seats. I want Paul Pressler to leave and never come back. I want Fantasmic to run year round. These are probably things that will never change, You cant always go home, what a brilliant statement that is. That is my feelings toward Disney as of right now.

Also I would like to express my concern for that little boy that feel off of the Roger Rabbit ride. My son is 5, and if he had a terrible accident such as this, I would hate to for him to have to go thru that terror of knowing he fell off a ride At Disneyland of all places, And the emotional trauma he will probably suffer from it. I highly doubt anyone is to blame, Except maybe his parents. Excuse my language, but how in the HELL does a little boy fall off of a ride that goes no faster than 2 miles an hour? The parents are to blame, not Disney if anyone should point fingers, which I am sure they will. I just wanted to express my concern for that little boy and the fact that his parent's were so careless and they will probably sue Disney for their mistake.

Anyways...thanks for your time AL. see you at the park!
 

A.

Thank you for the note. In Pressler's defense [never thought you'd see THAT sentence here on this site did ya? ;) ] the man isn't pure evil. He's just the wrong guy for the job. The sad thing is that millions of dollars are bet / invested on his misguided whims - they aren't worth much since he doesn't have a love for, nor talent at, what he is doing.

As one long timer put it to me: "It's like hiring a plumber to paint the Mona Lisa -- he's actually good at one skill set, but utterly incapable of understanding or picking up the other one.

Your story reminds me of my own as a child - I used to be just as excited about the place as you were. I really enjoyed each visit, and was continually impressed with the quality of what I saw there. I got to be pretty snobby too - telling all the other neighborhood kids that the local Santa Barbara County fair [we used to live in Santa Maria when I was in grade school] was nowhere near as nice as Disneyland. I guess my disdain for California Adventure's carnival had its roots going way back... ;)

The thing to keep in mind is that despite some misguided executives at the helm right now - there are still lots of others folks who work for the company who try their best each and every day to try and do a better job for us. That's why - despite the most misguided efforts by Pressler - we still get some wonderful things, such as the Mulan Parade and the Believe fireworks show. Hopefully, once Pressler moves on somewhere else [where his skill set will be better used] the quality will shine out again.

As far as the accident goes - it's very easy to make a snap judgment about what may or may not have happened. We still don't know the full story, and considering just how it happened, we may never know. I do think the park will make some kind of modifications to not only the Roger ride, but a few others, and hopefully there will be some new guidelines in place that will help make this kind of event even rarer in the future.

The good thing is that even as flawed as it may be, we do have some new laws in place that will help make sure that the public will be able to find out more about what went on than was possible in the past.

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Q.

Tracey writes: I recently purchased a Premium Annual passport for 2000 - 2001. In fact, we spend a total of $600 on three passports. I was shocked to see that they issued me the same card as last year with 1999 - 2000 on it. I know that at the beginning of the year the advertised a new design "while supplies last" but I never expected them to recycle the old passports. When we asked the first cast member she basically argued that it was all they had with no other explanation. She said that if a new design came out that we would have to pay to get a new passport!!!!

On our next trip, a month later, we asked another cast member and she never directly answered the question but proceeded to explain that the picture on the front of the passport was done by a special artist who would not be drawing anymore (or something like that) and it will become a rare picture. Well, I think that's great and all but I didn't pay $200 for a passport with the wrong year. Any suggestions?.
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A.

They did announce a while back this one design would be in place for two years. It's a cost saving move - as they used to change the design each year to show off the latest attraction for that time period.

My own beef with the design being used now is that it has nothing to do with Disneyland itself - it's just a generic piece of Mickey Mouse themed art. You'd THINK that a Disneyland passport would have, oh say... a picture of DISNEYLAND on it wouldn't you?  ;)

My favorite design was one from a few years ago, where they had a color version of the famous shot of Walt walking through the castle in the early morning. That was nice.

Expect a new design by the end of this year - rumor has it that November 1st we get a whole new set of passport offerings. We'll see if Pressler's wish to not offer a hopper passport for both parks is kept to.

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Q.

Jeff writes: The new 2001 Birnbaum guide says that hopper passes that allow guests into either Disneyland or California Adventure will only be sold to guests of the three resort hotels. Is this true? If so, it would seem to really limit DCA's crowds.

Cindy writes: Hi Al, I just found your site and LOVE it. I will steer away from the plagiarizing guidebook, too. Could you tell me which hotel is closest to the main gate with everything torn up? We would like to walk if that is possible. Thanks for all the wonderful information

Dan writes: Al can you tell me the acreage of Disneyland California. Thank you

Ronnie writes: Al when is Disneyland starting the Christmas Believe show and the snowing on Main Street, U.S.A. cause all of this sounds rally cool.
 
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A.

OK, so we're tackling more than ten questions this time around - see what I do for you guys? ;)

Jeff - yes that is true. You will also be able to get a package of FastPasses for your park visit too. It's being done not so much to limit the crowds as to insure that in a market full of all sorts of new hotels [especially in nearby Garden Grove] the Disney owned ones maintain an advantage. Of course you pay a premium price, but hey, that's Disney.

Cindy - thanks for the kind words. There are lots of hotels nearby, and Brian Bennett has put together a guide to the ones right on Harbor Blvd for you at THIS LINK. My suggestion? Look into staying at the Candy Cane Inn - it's just the other side of the main driveway into the parking for the park on Harbor Blvd, and for years now I have been getting all sorts of nice e-mail about what a great value it is, and how well they maintain it.

Dan - Walt originally purchased 160 acres of land, which has been somewhat supplemented since then - now in the Anaheim area Disney owns about 330 acres and has under long-term lease an additional 39.

Disneyland itself is supposed to sit on almost a hundred acres - of which about half are accessible to the public. California Adventure is touted as being 55 acres - but that's probably including the hotel, which despite all the hype, does NOT sit in the park - only a small corner abuts it, my guess here it's more like 45 to 50 total. The new third park is supposed to sit on a 78 acre plot.

Ronnie - November 3rd, with a few test runs beforehand that are not confirmed yet. If we hear anything, we'll run it here on the site.

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Ophelia writes: Of course I cannot open any letter to you without first expressing not only my own, but my entire families gratitude to you for maintaining and providing such a high quality site! Thank you for this :) I wanted to write to you and your site visitors about the conversations concerning the safety issues brought up by the Rodger Rabbit ride accident, there are some key points that are not being said, either in the media or otherwise.

I understand the sensitivity surrounding the accident, but, I'm surprised at how much responsibility is being thrown at Disneyland, particularly in the discussion of lap bars. What about the parents? I've read complaint after complaint from parents about the lap bars not restraining their children from standing up or getting out from under them easily, and as I read them, I only get annoyed by the parents and feel sympathetic for any amusement park that has to deal with them.

It is not a lap bars job to keep your child restrained and behaved; it is a parent's responsibility. Of course lap bars are going to be unsafe if you don't stay in your seat and remain there for the duration of the ride. If a seated child gets thrown from a lap bar ride, or falls out because of a faulty lap bar then I can justify the parents getting upset at the amusement park, otherwise, I do not understand why it would be the park's fault that the child got injured. The only way to effectively keep a child restrained is too "tie them down" or implement much needed parental supervision.

When I'm riding with my children, I always have them on the closed end of the ride and either my arm around their shoulder, or I sit close enough to them that I can easily monitor what they are doing, most of the time I do not even get to enjoy the ride, I find myself watching them the whole time! When the ride I'm on with my children is coming to a stop, I have my arm around my child's shoulders and I remind them that the ride is coming to an end and to wait for me to tell them when they can get out, I don't tell them that once either, I keep saying it until the ride actually stops. Is the substitute for this type of parent supervision more straps, belts and harnesses to tie down our kids?

In regards to the Rodger Rabbit ride, I think that the boy's parents should take some responsibility for their mistake. I'm surprised how much the media is "glossing" over the part they played in the accident and just blaming the Disneyland and its ride design. I have ridden the Rodger Rabbit ride too many times to even count with my daughters since they were 3 years old and every single time that I did ride it, the Cast Member loading the car instructed me to place my daughters on the closed side of the ride. Even if they didn't tell me to do so, I'm not forgetful of my child's safety and would place them against the closed side anyway for fear of something happening to them, especially if all 3 of us were sitting in the same car, as was the boy's family.

It was hard for me to understand why so late at night such a small child that was at Disneyland for nearly 11 hours straight was stuck on the open end of the car filled with 3 people. Regardless if Disneyland was truly at fault, the parents have to accept responsibility for allowing the tired small child to be on the open end like that. Is that unreasonable of me to think this way?

Another thing that really had me thinking was that the police report said the child was wearing the "Mickey Mouse ears hat" when he was on the ride. They found them near his clothing that had to be removed by the paramedics. Interesting to note that those children's Mickey Mouse ears are the worst thing for a child to wear at the park. They do not stay on, they never do. I have bought them for my kids before and all they had to do is lean to one side or bend down and off them came. They were constantly falling off, even walking sent the hat off their head.

My theory of what happened on the ride is that from the motion of the ride, the child attempted to recover his fallen Mickey Mouse ears and being tired and the small child he is, he was unable to determine his position and balance and came out under the lap bar, falling to the ground. Any parent that has taken their 4-year-old child to Disneyland for nearly 11 hours can understand what toll it would have taken on the boy.

I believe that lap bars are effective protection on Disneyland's rides because they do restrict you from falling out without restricting the riders from moving with the natural motion of the ride. I'm a mother of two girls, one is 5, the other 7. As a parent, I understand the seriousness and heart-wrenching damage that can occur when your child is in an accident, however, if you weren't making sure that your child was seated and behaved and they get hurt because of it, you have no one to blame but yourself. Let me expand on what I mean by "behaved", I'm not suggesting that the child display perfect behavior, I'm referring to things such as not leaning over the side, standing or getting off of the ride to try and grab plants, ride objects, lost items, walls, doors or other ride vehicles while the ride is in operation.

Disneyland has signs and ride safety spiels for every ride, making quite clear to parents that you must remain seated at all times and keep hands, legs, arms and feet in the ride at all times. It is the parent's responsibility to educate their children on these safety rules. Sadly, most parents do not, and when their child breaks one of the safety rules and gets hurt, guess who gets the blame, the park does, they whine and complain about how unsafe the ride is, avoiding responsibility for their own mistake.

In all the years I have been taking my children to Disneyland I have seen the most horrible behavior in parents and in children, parents that force their frightened children on rides that they want to go on and I see the child desperate to escape and get away, of course no ordinary lap bar is going to hold a scared child in. I always see parents argue with Cast Members when they are told that the smaller child has to sit on the inside of the ride, and they disregard the Cast Members and stick the child on the outside anyway, I have seen children standing and leaning practically out of the ride just to hit or grab parts of the ride or a passing car and a parent is sitting right next to them! I have seen kids getting hurt climbing on top of the fences, land structures, garbage cans, trees and building formations and then leap off them right in front of their parents. It is unbelievable to watch the scene unfold and when the child is hurt the parents curse the park and say it is not safe, or if I see a kid doing something dangerous and I suggest they be careful the parent lashes out at me to mind my own business.

In closing, I have very mixed feelings about the Rodger Rabbit accident. I cannot understand how the boy could have just fallen out, or was thrown out by a ride malfunction because it was determined that the ride was operating correctly at the time of the accident. Even if the lap bar wasn't pressed against him, the only way I can understand how the boy fell out is if he wasn't seated or wiggled his way out from under the bar to grab a fallen object. It is so tragic that the poor child is suffering due to someone's neglect. Whether it was Disneyland or the parents mistake is yet to be determined, I just hope that justice is served for the sake of the child, and the sake of the other parents and children that will continue to visit Disneyland for years to come.?!
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A.

Ophelia, first thank you for your kind note. I think all the MousePlanet readers will find it of much interest.

You bring up some very interesting observations - in particular about how the ride had been loaded in the past [with smaller children seated inside] and the insightful comments about how mouse ear hats are hard to keep on one's head. I too had wondered about keeping a younger child on such a long schedule also.

Hindsight is always 20-20 - and we still don't know the full story here. Hopefully this accident will allow for an examination of what can be done to increase the safety of all attractions. I have a feeling that it's more a rare combination of occurrences as opposed to any real negligence on either side's part.

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Q.

Tobias writes: Al - although I'm not always agreeing with your opinions, I still think that you're one of the most competent guys out there when it comes to Disney.

And that's why I hope that you can help when it comes to the following problem (although it's not really Disneyland related...): Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from a friend, who "invited" me to take a look around at www.disneyland.de (a German website). Well, I did... and was shocked! This website is not a Disney-domain and so someone uses it to promote different internet-sites -- including one with pornographic content!!!!!!!! (The biggest joke about this is, that the owner of the site even as a link to the official German website for all of those who accidentally came to his place...).

Anyway, I advised this friend of mine to inform Disneyland Paris via their website. A few days later, he got the following response (in a rough translation): "[...] Unfortunately, we cannot do anything against private sites and it only has a link to the official Disney-website. This is not illegal and because of that Disneyland Paris is not able to stop that." What follows is the usual copy-and-paste job à la "We hope to welcome you back to Disneyland Paris anytime soon".

Can they really do nothing about that site??? "Disneyland" is a trademark, last time I checked, and someone else is using this name to earn money! And what's Disney doing? Nothing?!? I can't quiet believe that... Maybe you know an e-mail address to which we can report this discovery... Best wishes from Europe,
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A.

Tobias, I agree with you, the Disney name should only be used properly. And it's funny this has happened, since the company has been on quite a tear lately about people using the word "Disney" in their domain names.

I do know the folks at the Disney company here do read this site, so let's hope your note gets noticed by them. I will also forward it to a few people I know there. I don't think they will be too interested in seeing the webmaster using it for "sexy links" or to hawk a cheap knock off of the Sony Aibo robot dog.

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Q.

Ed writes: I went to the Costa Mesa Mall to check out the new Disney Store. I was very surprised to see how small the store actually was. I don't know whether this new look is a good thing or a bad thing. I went further down the mall to another toy store... (Cant remember the name but it was foreign, started with a K) and it seemed more like Disney style than the Disney Store did.

I thought the Disney Store was supposed to make you feel like you where in Disneyland. To me it felt like being in one of those stylish Beverly Hills stores where everything was ridiculously overpriced. Although most of there prices came average what I did notice is how small the art section of lithographs and sculptures is.

Maybe it's just me but I honestly don't think this worth all the hype Disney did for this store's opening. I am just curious Al is this going to be happening to all Disney Stores including the ones for the Disney Mall ... uuuhhmm ... Downtown Disney...?
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A.

Ed, this is a prototype store for Disney, and there will be one more opening October 27th at the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey. Despite all the hype [and from the pictures I've seen of it - Disney has done a story about it in their corporate newsletter] I too was distinctly un-impressed.

To me it looks like a GAP store - very plain and inexpensive to fixture. [They pretty much dumped all the detailed character sculpture stuff they were doing.] Heck, they even dumped the "The" from the name. When I did a little research, I found out that Andrew Mooney, who heads up consumer products and pushed for a new store design came from Nike, which explains a lot.

This new design is supposed to better accommodate the new merchandise mix that is on the way - they want to get away from the character stuff a bit, and put in more generic items that are supposed to even out the sales flow a bit. They apparently felt that they were too dependent on the movies to sell merchandise. Which begs the question of course - if the Disney Store wants to be like every other store in the mall, why bother keeping the name on it?

Considering just how many times they have changed direction this past year - and the bewildering procession of merchandise that has been pumped in and out of the stores so far - I don't think it would be too far fetched to think this is just another trend they are chasing after to try and goose up faltering sales.

Wouldn't it have been simpler for the company to just make better movies in the long run? People buy stuff from movies they love in droves.   ;)

The new Disneyland Resort / Downtown Disney store seems to be duplicating the Orlando version pretty much - even down to the character decor outside. I don't think it will be affected by this redo so much.

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Q.

Pearl writes: Al: Thank you for publishing the e-mail that I sent you last week. After visiting Universal's Islands of Adventure last year, I felt that it was a very impressive theme park with many first rate rides and attractions, just like other people have probably told you. Maybe if Disney Seas in Japan becomes an instant overwhelming success, maybe if Disney's California Adventure flops, and maybe if Universal's Islands of Adventure brings in far more visitors than in the future than today, there's always a glimmer of hope that the quality of rides and attractions may improve at the Disney Theme Parks.
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A.

From your keyboard to Eisner's eyeballs Pearl...  ;)

Right now the company is being run to please the stock analysts - not the public. Let's hope they wake up to the fact [before they build too many more DCA type parks] that if they worry about the customers first, the profits will follow.

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Q.

Anthony writes: Hey, Is there special housing for Cast Members on the Disneyland Resort Property? OR in the area of Disneyland? P.s. any news on how to get a job there? Thank you Very Much!!!!
 

A.

There is no special housing for Disneyland cast members on the property or nearby. I don't think this will ever come to happen either, it's an investment the company couldn't be seen making.

For Disney job information, you may want visit Kevin Yee's Cast Place JOBS PAGE. He lists all sorts of data there that may help you out, plus a few tips on how to make a good impression for your interview.

They do need a LOT of bodies right now for the new park and resort expansion, you've chosen a good time to put in an application.

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Q.

Patrick writes: Dear Al: Just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was to find your site. I'm expecting my first child in March. I'm really looking forward to exposing my child to Disneyland and to the high standards of artistic endeavor and entertainment it has come to represent.

However, the entrance mural to the opening of the second gate attraction: DCA is such a departure from these lofty goals one must question the thinking behind it. It is a sad state of affairs when the likes of Walt Disney Imagineering would hire such talent-less hacks to design such important and prominent pieces for the park.

Perhaps, in the tradition of the WPA, Disney is keeping bread on the table for less fortunate imagineers. I think not. More likely, those standards have been comprised. I am outraged. Outraged, that such Freeway art should blemish the hollowed mouse grounds. Outraged that standing in the very spot which years ago was the portal to my own youths' untarnished hopes and dreams is this behemoth eyesore. Outraged that my child's first impression of Disneyland will bear the scar of seeing the pedestrian where before was greatness.

I tell you, Al, if I were not the artist, I think I would lodge a serious complaint to the people in charge.

On a happier note, the money earned has happily been used on art lessons. And I can say I am enthusiastically employing these newly enhanced skills on freeway underpasses and retaining walls throughout the Los Angeles freeway system.
 

A.

Awww Patrick - the good thing is that you ARE trying to better yourself.

The bad thing of course is that we won't benefit from all that practice you've been getting since you did DCA. ;)

Now tell me - did you also have something to do with the hood ornament they just put up in the middle of the park? I keep thinking Studebaker, but my friends suggest it's more Buick.

(Congrats by the way on the new addition to the brood.)

Ask Al™:

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