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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.


The following ten questions were posted on 5/16/01 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.

Greg writes: Al, The new DCA commercial just ran on TV here in Phoenix. I'm not even sure which channel it was on, so it might have been on a national network like Disney Channel or Nick (I wasn't watching the TV but my two oldest children, 5 and 6, were watching).

In the background I heard what sounded like a new commercial for DCA, so I started watching it. It had the different children riding on the roller coaster. Now both of my boys LOVE the roller coasters at Disneyland and have since they were 4 and 5 (including Space Mountain, Big Thunder, Matterhorn, etc.).

As SOON as the commercial ended (and I'm not making this up), my 5-year old Patrick states that "he's going to ride that roller coaster" on our next visit to Disneyland because "the kids were riding it on TV". I didn't have the heart to tell him that he won't be tall enough for probably at least another few years. We'll deal with that disappointment when we actually get to Disneyland / DCA in the fall.

Actually, I thought his reaction was funny, and I couldn't wait to tell my wife about your recent story taking task with the new commercials. Looks like you hit it right on the head. Looking forward to your next update
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A.

Thanks for your kind note Greg, yours is one of many e-mails I got making similar comments. People are none too happy the company seems to be playing a shell game here - promoting a park that has little to do for the smaller fry directly to it.

We need to keep listening to what the customers are saying, even if the honchos at Disney don't. Providing that kind of information here will only assist people as they plan their visits to the resort.

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Q.

Dennis writes This is Dennis from Connecticut. I spoke with you this past Sunday and I just wanted to say thanks and it was nice to meet you.

I had a three day BLAST at the Disneyland (DL) resort. I have been to Walt Disney World many times and Disneyland Paris three times and I must rank DL's MK number one! What a GEM you have out there! I was so happy with the CM's and people in general. I was amazed at how big the park felt knowing how small it really is... yeah for the Imagineers!

Equally amazing was how un-Disney the surroundings are. I knew what to expect but it STILL took me by surprise seeing the "berm" and seeing inside toon town from the highway.

I did enjoy California Adventure as part of my park hopping ticket. I *do* understand your feelings on some aspects and you do have valid ideas and concerns. I have faith it will change. I support the talent behind these places and being in their own backyard, they won't allow themselves to be embarrassed.

What *is* there is a good foundation to grow upon. What little is there is well done. I look forward to seeing it in five years.

Again - it was nice to meet you and I will continue to enjoy your site (with a grain of salt ;) Thanks again!.

 

A.

Nice meeting you too Dennis. :) Sadly we didn't get much time to talk.

Keep in mind that the problems with DCA were foreseen by a lot of people, especially within the company itself. The ensuing media coverage, focused on the poor word of mouth and the sparse attendance only continues to rather painfully point them out. Sadly, with the current management in place, it seems that speaking up is about the only way the issues may be addressed.

I think you know I love the Disney parks, especially Disneyland. (Your observations about it by the way are dead on.) If I didn't have that affection for it in me somewhere I wouldn't be in the business I am in now, nor would I speak up as I do.

What I do hope is that someday you will be able to visit Tokyo DisneySeas after it opens, so you can see what DCA should have been. Oriental Land Company (OLC) was smart, they spent wisely and worked Imagineering hard (even within a tight fiscal framework) to deliver a solid park that should open as a great success with plenty to see and do from day one. OLC will be able to carefully plan their future expansions and additions, and not have to expensively rush things in like Disney will be doing with DCA.

(Also OLC's continued adherence to quality insures that their Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is in excellent repair, and their ToonTown remains brightly colorful. I suspect that steadfast commitment to quality is why even in the middle of the economic recession that Japan is going through right now, OLC has achieved record attendance and profits.)

I think you know that Walt Disney would have been disappointed if he'd heard his visitors say things such as "what little there is" and "I have faith it will change" about anything he had built. I hope you can see why some feel that his unique showmanship and legacy (as well as the value of the Disney name) are tarnished when even the greatest admirers of the company have to say about DCA that "they won't allow themselves to be embarrassed." The lackluster attendance numbers and revenues so far have already embarrassed them I would think.

As far as taking anyone's opinions "with a grain of salt" well... it's always good to hear all kinds of them, both good *and* bad, as it helps keep the site on track and responsive to the readership. (This is because in my case I learned from all the years I spent in the music biz producing albums that it's the critics that keep you on your toes, not the fans. The fans and their wanting to forgive everything can love an act to death - literally!)

Hope you get to return soon, and no, I didn't say that "with a grain of salt," ;)

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Q.

Leonard writes: Two weeks ago I caught the new, improved version of Believe. I was impressed with the appearance of what I guess is supposed to be Tinker bell. It appears to be a radio controlled airplane or ? with a large green light. Any info. on how they do this?
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A.

It's actually a very simple effect Leonard - but instead of telling you exactly how it is done, (and spoiling it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet) I will tell you to look off to the sides of the castle during the day and look for something on each side that is sitting on the adjacent buildings. Those two objects work together to make Tink dart around the castle.  :)

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Q.

"J" writes: Al, I was wondering why there was no information on the incident at Space Mountain from last night? (May 6th) I was one of the people who was stuck on the coaster while the CM's were clearing out the load area after a boy got hurt while getting on the ride.

The information we were given afterwards was that a boy from the Happy Hearts day group was getting on the ride and he got dizzy and fell. Apparently, they had to bring in the paramedics for him as he was badly hurt. Also, we were told there was some sort of "security incident" in the load area as they were trying to convince the guests in line to clear the area.

We were stuck on the coaster so we missed all of what happened in the load area, but we could hear people on the PA system asking the guests to leave the ride, and telling them to go on another attraction. Our big complaint as to how this was all handled is that for at least 10 minutes we were stuck in our cars with the only contact from CM's being someone who was not able to adequately use the PA system (sounding rather like the teacher from a Charlie Brown special) asking us to stay in our seats.

The brake system on the ride stopped us very abruptly, and with a similar force to being rear-ended in an auto accident. We all sat there, not knowing what had happened and without having anyone come by to check on us to make sure we were all OK. Finally a single CM came by to make sure no one was hurt, as soon as we said we were OK, she left rather sheepishly telling us she needed at least one other person to help her unload. About 15 minutes later a crew finally came by to get us off the ride, they were unable to start things up again to bring the cars back to the station so they unloaded us where we were stopped.

My biggest complaint? When we went to Guest Relations to voice our concerns, the people who talked to us (two heads of Tomorrowland attractions, as I recall) spent most of the time explaining that the whole crew at Space Mountain was needed to deal with the situation with the hurt boy and that they couldn't spare even one person to check on the rest of the guests in the ride. They also spent much of the conversation with us over-expressing their concern for the hurt boy, to the point of sounding insincere.

Every concern I voiced they tried to re-direct my complaints by trying to play on my sympathy for the hurt boy, as if I shouldn't be worried about what could have happened to myself and my friends on the ride. The whole experience at Guest Relations was very bizarre, and I doubt that anything I said will be addressed at all by Disney.
 

A.

You know J - this sounds exactly like what happened when the Space Mt. coaster derailed last year. People sat in the dark for what seemed forever to them, and cast members were nowhere to be found.

At that time (when I asked around about that incident) I was told it was essentially due to the problems with staff turnover - no one had been working the ride long enough to learn anything about proper procedures.

Your note concerns me - as it seems nothing has changed since then - and people were just left out there yet again wondering what was going on. This can present problems of course if someone on a car becomes panicked or upset.

Keep in mind many incidents are usually NOT reported unless an injury is serious enough. There are NO investigations done as a routine matter of fact for the most part unless an employee is injured, whereupon OSHA gets involved. (For example, OSHA did NOT investigate the recent tree accident since the cast member hit by the tree was not injured seriously enough to warrant their looking into it.)

If you're stuck in the dark for an extended period of time on a ride, you are owed an explanation. There's simply no excuse for that. Let me continue to follow up with this and try to find out why nothing has changed from the first incident.

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Q.

George writes: Al: How much would it cost to maintain the Disney Theme Parks by Walt Disney's standards?

Also, if Disney's California Adventure continues to completely and utterly flop to the point where they have to A: Fix DCA to make it right, or B: Shut down DCA for good, do the folks at Disney have any ideas or resources to deal with those possibilities?

Next, is Disney buying anymore land around the Disneyland Resort, or do they plan to purchase anymore land around the Disneyland resort for any future projects (besides the land they've already purchased for a possible third theme park)?

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A.

I may not get to all your questions here George, (I had to do a quick edit of your note) but I'll try.

Maintaining the parks to the former level of quality would probably NOT cost them that much more than what it is running them now. As I understand it from the folks who really know - the proper expenditures would be small compared to the longer lasting effects correct maintenance would have. The problems happen when things get nickled and dimed, and upkeep is delayed - making for a rehab way on down the line that costs them about five times what it should had it been kept up in the first place. Sadly financial honcho's Byron Pollitt's accounting only recognizes a short term approach - deferring these needed expenses makes his bottom line look great for the meantime.

As far as DCA being shut down, no, it won't happen. They will keep pouring money into it until they fix it. (Can't have the suits look bad you know.) The only problem with this is that you have the blind leading the doomed here - as the same people who got it wrong in the first place are making all the fixes now.  (I think if Eisner thought Paris was a fiscal nightmare, he really is going to find out what the meaning of that word is going to be with this park.) Personally I feel the core concept is fundamentally flawed - it will always be hobbled by the arrogance of the suits in charge while it was built. Disneyland proper will continue to pay the price for its weak sister.

Finally, Disney is always buying land or taking options on it around the resort. It lets them trade parcels should any needs arise, and gives them some control over some of the development nearby. Much of this is done under other names and companies, and kept on the QT, in order to keep price speculation down.

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Q.

Alfred writes: This is my first time writing in but I surf the site almost once a week or when I hear of news like the fallen tree. Awesome site, keep up the great work.

I understand that Disney is planning some kind of massive 15 month celebration very similar to the MILLENNIUM CELEBRATION at WDW in honor of the 100th year of Walt Disney's birth. What kind of information do you have on this.

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A.

Right now, anything like that they could have been planning for Disneyland here has been put on a back burner. This is because have some serious problems with California Adventure they are dealing with that is taking all the energy and money away from anything else.

One thing that seems to be in place though is our keeping of one of the Walt Disney office replicas - the other one went to Orlando. That could serve as a centerpiece of anything should they decide to do something here.

It would be a shame if they blew if off for the west coast, thanks to the apparent misfire the new park has been.

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Q.

Robert writes: I enjoy your column and I have two questions:

(1) I remember many years ago Disneyland was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during certain times of the year. At the time, what was the reason for this policy, which might seem odd to us today, and why was it discontinued?

(2) When DCA opened, "Eye on L.A." devoted an entire program to the new Park. It was a very positive and glowing piece ----- it really was a half-hour advertisement for DCA and Downtown Disney.

When a news organization comes to the Park to produce a show like that, how much control does Disney have over the editorial content of the show? Did they pay "Eye on L.A." to produce a positive spin on DCA?
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A.

Yes, you remembered right - Disneyland used to close two days a week during the off season, and nearby Knott's used to also close on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The downtime used to be utilized for upkeep, and was when most of the major rehab projects were completed.

When Eisner came on board he (correctly I might add) figured that it cost him almost as much money not to have the place running every day as it would be to have it open - since the facilities were just sitting there anyway. Crowds could easily be brought in with special promotions if need be to fill the park up as needed. This was a no brainer fiscally of course - but sadly the level of upkeep and maintenance that down time gave them was never retained as the policy took hold.

As far as "Eye On L.A." - from what I understand - the budget for that is handled the same way the Walt Disney World holiday parade specials / shows are done on the ABC network.  As you may, or may not know, the Walt Disney Company is now this huge accounting maze of departments, all who bill each other for services rendered.

The parks division pays or shares the expenses involved to produce the show, the network or station then makes money from selling ad time on them. Since it's an in-house project, you really can't expect any kind of critical look from them, as the nature of these vehicles are strictly promotional. (Eye On L.A. by its nature is an upbeat promotional vehicle anyway, don't expect any Channel 2 Joel Grover restaurant exposes here. My guess from taking a look at it is that they do also collect some kind of production fee on a regular basis from the services / shops / businesses profiled.) Look for a small disclaimer at the end of the show's credit roll and you'll see a note something along the lines of "produced by / fees paid by Walt Disney Attractions."

Essentially they are only doing what Walt Disney originally pioneered with the original "Disneyland" TV show - the programming is designed to primarily promote the park, the station gets to fill in broadcast time, and the station (and company) profits from selling advertising on what essentially is already a subsidized program length commercial.

Now you see why Eisner, with all his vaunted synergy, is really just following along in Walt's footsteps here...  ;)

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Q.

Chris writesHey there, Al. Long-time reader. Second time writer.

1. First, just wanted to make sure you were aware of how bad things were at the parks yesterday, Sunday. I was there with a friend from about 2:30 to 8:30 and only got on one ride (Space Mountain, which we hadn't ridden in a while due to earlier unscheduled shut- downs).

Yes, the Matterhorn was clearly undergoing a rehab, but at one point 3 other major rides -- Thunder Mountain, Pirates and Jungle Cruise -- were all down for unknown reasons. Let me just say that if I wasn't an AP I would have been demanding my money back. Eventually we went over to DCA... where Grizzly River was also down! What a day.

2. We went looking for the infamous Paul Pressler stone between the two parks but couldn't find it. We did, however, find one conspicuous blank stone nestled in the middle of a bunch of other stones. Did the defacing get so bad that they had to remove it? If not, do you happen to know the stone's locator number?

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A.

Two items, two responses:

1] The breakdowns have become more frequent since T. Irby and Paul Pressler have been working their "magic" on upkeep budgets. Somewhere, floating around the Team Disney Anaheim building (where all the suits hide away from the park proper) there is supposed to be a spread sheet showing downtime - and how it has increased since the economies have been put in place. Translated as a bar graph, as I understand, the steep slide downwards is only rivaled by the stock price of Priceline.com ;)

2] Paul's stone is right next to Cynthia Harriss' brick (001) - and has no number on it.  It seems La Harriss got on the proper bandwagon and got her stone when the program was announced, and Pressler apparently didn't get around to it until much later. He apparently couldn't have an underling above him you know...  so they just popped in his stone above hers. Petty eh?

Last time I checked the stone was still in place, and yet again, newly defaced.

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Q.

Samuel writes: Hi Mr. Lutz, I've been an avid reader of your column (and Koenig's too) for quite some time. It's quite sad to see how the Disney name has been falling apart in recent years.

The last time I went to a Disney park was in December 1999, to the Magic Kingdom Resort, and I was a little disappointed. The major problems I saw where that many rides I so cherished were gone (Mr. Toad's, Horizons, etc.), still, every CM me and my parents encountered were very nice to us, always helping. Besides I found quite a bit of the old Disney Magic in Epcot... I found a long lost friend of mine working as a CM in the Mexico Pavilion. She felt back then that it was a very good job (maybe because it was before Cast Deployment, I guess) It was quite surprise to found her after many years. :)

Well, what this mail is about is about the DCA attendance problem. As I told you, I'm from Mexico (betcha its your first mail from a Mexico fan) and there's a store called Comercial Mexicana (it's like a K-Mart) and it is heavily promoting DCA. Since the beginning of April they have this promotion that gives the shopper tickets to a contest (or raffle) in which the prize will be an all paid trip to DCA. I don't know how desperate the Disney Topsuits are for attendance in DCA but it seems quite a problem for them. There are about 4 or 6 trips being offered through the months of May and June.

OK, that's about it. Congratulations on keeping a very good column in the best site I've read in my very long Internet- addicted life (about 6 years cruisin' the net).
 

A.

First Samuel, thanks for the kind words. Believe it or not, we do manage to have a good sized readership in Mexico, as well as in Europe, Japan and Australia! I don't think there isn't a day that goes by I don't get an e-mail such as yours from another far off corner of the planet.

As far as the local promotions for California Adventure, that actually is pretty standard procedure - Disneyland does pull in a lot of visitors from south of the border. It's no different than the local promotions we see here with the Orange County Register for example.

What is extraordinary is the amount they are now spending to promote the park here domestically - as I mentioned in a recent update, the numbers make things like the Pearl Harbor aircraft carrier party look like kids stuff. Again, I would LOVE to know just how much per head it is costing them to pull in those customers - along with all the last minute re-shuffling of attractions and events they are currently doing.

Paul Pressler and Barry Braverman are fully responsible for this haphazard outsized spending you know (along with Eisner). It just breaks my heart to guess at how much could have been saved, and then better spent on some wonderful future attractions instead of all the scrambling to cover up corporate behinds we see now.

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Q.

Justin writes: Hi, there! I love your site, but after reading through it tonight, it's succeeded in making me feel quite depressed. I'm not looking forward to my family's Disneyland trip now as much as I was an hour ago.

Since you brought this misery upon me (just kidding!), I was wondering if there is anything you can say that might make me feel better: some little news tidbit that might make me say, "You know, those Disneyland folks are least doing something right." Anything?

Julie also writes: Our family (a group of 11 people) is planning a trip to Disneyland at Thanksgiving time this year. We were all anxious to see the new California Adventure and we love the Magic Kingdom. We are not Disney "rookies", having made 10 trips to Disney World, 5 previous trips to Disneyland and some of us just returned from a cruise on the Disney Wonder.

After reading your updates, I am wondering if we should reconsider this trip. You paint a very bleak picture of Disneyland. Are we wasting our money?
 

A.

I'm sharing a standard e-mail response with you I send out to anyone who writes with notes such as the above:

It's best to use the information you get from the columns to help plan and prepare for your trip. That way you know what to expect when you arrive, and make sure you get for what you pay for. It can also serve as a guideline for what to discuss with the Disney company should you find anything unsatisfactory. Hopefully the time before you take your trip is enough for the company to address many of the issues.


The following ten questions were posted on 5/3/01 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.

Coy writes: Dear Al, I was wondering if you have a link or info regarding The Rivers of America and the Mark Twain. Every time my family takes a trip to Disneyland I have to hear my Dad's theory on why the river isn't clear like at the old submarines, more like a thick green color. Maybe to hide the tracks for the Mark Twain or to hide how shallow the river really is.

Dad has been saying the same thing for all these years It would be nice to finally know. If you or your staff has the answer I would greatly appreciate it so we can finally agree or disagree with him. Don't get us wrong, all of us still believe in the "Magic of Disneyland". Thanks for your help,
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A.

I asked around about this and got the following responses from folks at the park:

The main reason the river isn't clear is for show - they really don't want you knowing how deep it is. I've seen people get dunked in it (one time when a canoe CM was on his last day) and it appears from what I observed that a six footer could stand in the water with his head above it. A peek around the fence during the last major river rehab for Fantasmic (more than a few years ago) also seemed to confirm it was not all that deep too.

The dark color hides the tracks for the Columbia and the Mark Twain, and all the Fantasmic show equipment (including three much deeper pits with hydraulic scissor lifts for pumps and lights and a huge maze of gas pipes for the fire effects). It also very simply looks more authentic - as anyone who has paddled up the Mississippi could tell you.

The other reason is for cost savings - it costs the park an arm and a leg to filter and chemically treat the water to remain clear in the sub lagoon - especially since they need a custom formula that doesn't give off the overpowering odor regular chlorine does.

Back before they got rid of Cascade Peak, there was a filtering system built into the river area next to it - but it was mostly to keep the floating debris (leaves, coke bottles, the occasional smashed duck) out of the waterfall pumps that used to be in it.

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Q.

David writes Dear Al: I recently returned from a trip to Disneyland and was quite baffled by the current condition of the Haunted Mansion. Yea, the paint on the exterior of the building is chipping, but that I can understand.

The condition of the scrims inside of the ride are quite another story. The illusion of the floating candles in the hallway once seemed so real, now you can hardly tell what is being portrayed in the sequence, not to mention the graveyard scene which seems COVERED in dust.

While I was looking over some of your archives, I noticed that a major rehab was planned for the Mansion in spring 2002. Is this major rehab still planned to take place...please say yes. Thank you! .
 

A.

I wish I could say yes - but head honcho Paul Pressler (penny pincher that he is) has yet again decided that the Mansion isn't worth the time or money. Meanwhile the nearby shops are probably going to get their third remodel in the years since he took over.

Some folks at the park are holding out a slim hope that when the Mansion does get "made over" for the Nightmare Before Christmas holiday makeover, they maybe, just maybe, will give the ride some tender loving care.

My own gut instinct is that they will yet again delay the work and upkeep that is so badly needed.

The saddest thing about this is hearing the guest relations folks explaining to people who come into City Hall to complain about the decay - "It's supposed to look like that! It's an old haunted house!"

Yeah. Sure.

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Q.

Craig writes: Hey Al, Craig here. Long time since I've talked to you. However I do enjoy your site.

I thought I'd share an experience I had today. I'm fully employed right now, but I'm looking to make a few extra dollars with a 2nd part time job. Partially for fun, and partially for a lark, I went and applied at Disneyland today. Because of my full time job, I gave availability for full time weekends and Friday evening. The receptionist at the casting center reviewed my availability and politely handed back my application saying they couldn't accommodate me.

It would seem to me, if the resort is truly short on workers, that they would be more open to people looking for a flexible 2nd job. A little bit of flexibility would open up a large crop of workers. Oh well their loss. Take Care and I enjoy the site.
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A.

Disney, as the company has grown under Eisner, continues to fossilize. It's become more bureaucratic and inflexible. While many corporations continue to innovate with job sharing, flex schedules and such - Disney doesn't want to be bothered with exploring what could be done.

One of the fiscal benefits of doing this is that it keeps short term labor costs way down - by keeping turnover high. People who move on quickly don't get increases in pay, benefits, etc.

One of the problems with this approach is that you never build a workforce that has a reservoir of knowledge to draw upon to get its work efficiently done. The long term problem created here is that without an experienced work force in place, mistakes continue to be made and workers are always having to deal with an expensive learning curve.

Flexibility would cost them money up front - and that's an Eisner No No.

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Q.

Debbie writes: Al, here is copy of a letter that I just sent Disneyland regarding the new Rancho Del Zocalo Restaurant. Since you don't have much of a review of it for your site, I thought you would like to know what a frequent Disneyland traveler's opinion is. Love your site...

Dear Sirs,

Our family was so VERY disappointed this last Wed. April 18, 2001 when we visited Disneyland. For well over a year we have been patiently waiting the re-opening of the Mexican Restaurant in Frontierland. We love Mexican food as do most Southern Californians. When the Casa Mexicana closed we were so very upset since there was not another Mexican Restaurant to enjoy in the Park. When the day came that we saw that the new restaurant was open, we couldn't wait for our next trip. We are annual pass holders and love to frequently visit Disneyland.

WE COULDN'T BELIEVE HOW AWFUL THE FOOD WAS! It is nothing at all like any good Mexican Restaurant we have ever gone to, and certainly not even close to the quality of food of the Casa Mexicana. The Chicken was all bad pieces, full of fat. There were no items with the popular ground beef mixture. The beans and rice tasted like plastic with NO flavor. They hardly gave you any cheese at all, and you had to smother all of it in that Ortega Hot Sauce, which isn't that great either. None of the menus had any sauce and were SO dry. Of course the food was also COLD when we got it.

I became very ill that night after eating dinner there and vomited it all up. I had no sign of stomach upset all day previous to that. We were just shocked at the quality of that food. My husband says we will never go there again. But again, we are so disappointed.

The facility is beautiful and it was so nice to see so much of the original atmosphere was still there. I have gone to Disneyland every ear of my life and many times within each year. I am 46 years old. I have eaten at that restaurant every time I have gone. Please can you change the menu.

I hope you can do something to help.
 
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A.

Sadly Debbie - your note mirrors a lot of the e-mail I've been getting since the restaurant opened back up. There are also many complaints about the service.

They did a beautiful job in the physical rehab - but when it comes to the food (former foods honcho) Mike Berry's absence is very apparent here. I would strongly suggest all readers avoid this location for now.

I miss the old restaurant's menu and quality. It wasn't gourmet Mexican food - but it was of a consistent quality and they used to have a wonderful tortilla soup that I really looked forward to.

Let me know if you get anything back other than the standard form letter won't you?

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Q.

Nathan writes: Dear Al, I read Craig's question about the strange pavement by the Lights, Camera, Chaos stage. His clues about oil stains and possible garage doors reminded me of something.

This stage may be in the spot where there was a small gas station in the old parking lot. As a former CM, I remember seeing Parking CM's use the pumps here to fill the old lot tram's gas tanks, as this section of the lot was used for CM parking. I believe the pumps were torn out a few years before DCA was built as the park switched to natural gas trams.

Also, Craig mentioned something about a parking lot light pole still standing in the Indiana Jones building. Is this true?.
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A.

I have construction photos of this area of DCA as it was being cleared and then built upon. There was nothing left but dirt when they began - so I can't imagine they would have left any of an old parking lot gas station there. Yours was the second note that mentioned that station though, interesting.

There is a parking lot sign inside the Indy queue - if you bring along a flashlight on your next visit - point it up right when you enter the movie room (where they project the seatbelt spiel). If you look carefully up in the scaffolding you'll see an old sign from the Eeyore section of the parking lot, where the building was put into.

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Q.

Robert writes: I am a long time DIG fan, long before the days of this whole MousePlanet development. For years I have enjoyed reading your updates. When I went off to college, your site became my best source for news about my favorite place to visit.

Now I am in my senior year up at UC Berkeley. And while I still enjoy reading the updates while taking a study break at home, I have found a way to stick your updates on my Palm V and read them anywhere I go!

Bored in lecture? Now I can read about the latest DCA statistics. Riding the bus home? Time to read about the latest prediction for the Rocket Rod's future. Technology is a wonderful thing. :-)

One slight problem...Your updates sit right on the envelope of the acceptable file size to download to the Palm. Sometimes they fit, sometimes they don't. Lately they have been very long and not fitting. It's not the latest update that makes the file so big, it's the ones in limbo between being current and being archived. Lately you seem to have allowed more past updates to be tacked onto the most current, making the whole page very long.

So I have a request... 1) Could you try to move old updates to the archive faster? or 2) Would you make a separate page for Palm users with just the most recent update?

Thanks for all your great work these past years. I am amazed that you have the time to maintain such an amazing site.
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A.

First of all thank you for the kind note Robert! It means a lot when you take the time to compliment the site. MousePlanet grows by the day, and it is all thanks to a wonderful staff who helps out in making the daily updates for everyone.

One of the reasons you may see more than one update on the page has a lot to do with frequency - we've been updating that page more often now, and people do really like seeing a recent past update they may have missed. Each update also has gotten longer as there is more news to report - the expansion of the resort has made for all sorts of interesting news.

We are looking at some solutions for your specific situation - and hopefully they should shortly be making your life a bit easier. I'd detail more, but you know what it's like when you are in a competitive environment. Just keep checking. ;)

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Q.

Matt writes: Al, Just like all of you (out there) I love Disneyland but I have no desire to ever see DCA. I'm not even curious about it.

But here's something I'm surprised that no one seems to have brought up. I keep reading how the failure of DCA would be terrible for both the company and for guests but is it possible that its failure could ultimately be a good thing for Disneyfans? I remember reading an article about how Imagineers were hoping for Universals IOA (Islands of Adventure) to be a huge hit so that Disney would be forced to compete and build better attractions. Somehow this kind of strikes me a similar situation except that Disney now has to compete with or "better" itself because it is finding that even the casual visitor isn't gonna pay for prefab crap.

I cant imagine that after seeing all the cash and comp tickets flying out the window that Eisner's still gonna think "hey, where can I buy another Ferris wheel?" I, like all of you, am hoping for a return to quality, detail and uniqueness. If DCA had been a success then there would be no motivation to return to that. Hopefully now, there is. What do you think?.
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A.

The real problem right now is that the executives in charge do not think they did anything wrong with the new park.

Endless meetings and memos have blamed everything from the weather (which was a fair excuse until Spring Break blew that one away), the economy (Disneyland Park's numbers don't seem to be hurting at all though), the ad campaign (Mickey's butt!), negative press (maybe profanity- prone short tempered Ray Gomez chewed out one too many reporters?) and yours truly (and I quote: "the damn internet").

The hurling of the Electrical Parade into the new park is supposed to get bodies in there to "see how good this park really is." Yep, that's what they really think.

Until someone (and it won't be Pressler / Braverman / Eisner, that's for sure) bites the bullet and actually listens to the customers and gives it the total overhaul it needs it appears that they will continue down this creative dead end for a long time to come.

What the customers are saying is not important here to these guys, they made the right decisions (they feel) and the public will be trained to like this park.

I suspect that the bad word of mouth is a key factor here, and that the Electrical Parade will play into that by making them look like they had to do something fast.

They probably just worsened the problem.

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Q.

Roger writesHi Al, Enjoy your column very much. I visited DL and DCA on Sunday April 22 (2 park annual passholder) and found myself enjoying the day, but also observing things with a semi- critical eye as well.

Having visited DCA during a February Preview day, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the little things that irritated me on my first visit had been ironed out. (Spending less than five minutes in line for everything in the morning probably helped as well. The attendance, as you have reported, was very light when I was there.)

We had done most everything by noon and went over to Disneyland. Here I saw something that inspired this letter. While we were on Space Mountain (no music), as we waited to off-load, the cars in front of us were being loaded and one guest had crutches and was taking a little longer to get settled. The loader was holding the crutches for the guest and holding his hand up as well signaling to wait. Despite this, the dispatcher called up the vehicle the moment the guest faced forward and was still 3/4 standing, essentially throwing the guest into his seat. The loader stood there shaking his head and then proceeded to load the next car.

I walked out of there thinking this was an example of how people are getting injured with greater frequency at Disneyland and I wondered who would I say something to about what I saw - and would they care about a dispatcher with an itchy finger?.
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A.

The problem with reporting these kinds of incidents is that you need enough information to make sure the right people get talked to about it.

Next time you see something like this - why not ask for the person in charge of the attraction? Nicely point out the problem, and ask if they will assist you in filing a report at City Hall about it.

That should a] get their attention quickly, and b] assure you are able to file a report that makes sense, properly identifies the people involved, and can have action taken upon.

Do keep in mind if you consider this, that no one is perfect. Mistakes can be made.

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Q.

Daniel writes: Al, I have worked for Mickey Mouse for 10 years and I am wondering if you have any suggestion as to where I should move my Disney stock. I never thought I would said that but I am so fed up with all the stupid decisions being made lately that I just can't take it any more.

Is anyone else as incensed by Eisner and Pressler's decisions to bring back the MSEP to DCA by July 4th.? Can you tell me how many people bought light bulbs from the last time it left the park? The way this company is now being run, soon we'll be hearing about their new offer to to have your light bulb engraved and put back into the parade, and this would only cost you $20.00. When will this money hunting, bean counting stupidity end? I long for the day that the guest's are once again the reason for the park!!!!!!!!!!

I wish the early retirement package was worth a damn, because I would have taken it in a heart beat. This company will screw anyone but it's stockholders and as a stockholder my lubricant has worn out.

I've got an idea let's build a park about California in California! Who was the brain child that approved that concept and why are they still running things. If your running a company and need to lay off 4,000 people - it seems to me your not doing a very good job. What has to take place before the Board of Directors stands up?

Thanks for letting me vent - one very pissed off Cast Member - correction I used to be a Cast Member now I'm an employee just like the rest of the world. Sorry Walt your dream has died.
 

A.

Looking at my mail, it seems that a LOT of people are not going to make that trek to DCA to see the electrical parade. I think I'll even go out on a bit of a limb here and predict that the numbers will be nowhere near what they are expecting - I think it will be because the concept is wrong, and the move just looks like utter desperation.

People like to go to hits, they really don't like things that are the last on the charts. I learned that lesson back in my youth working in a record store. Most customers used to pick up a chart, and make the selections from it. "It's a best seller, it's number one of KISS-FM, it must be great!"

Why do I think it's going to be a long summer in the old Disneyland parking lot?

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Q.

Jason writes: Hi! Great update today. I was just wondering if you hear a lot of complaints on the way the Disney Club is set up now? You know, the thing that used to be free and is now $40 a year?

I recently ran into a bit of trouble trying to use my discount, and decided to write a letter to complain/ comment on the specific issue I had a problem with. When I called the 800 number and asked for a mailing address for the club, the rep said "why, did you want to send back your card?" For that to be the first thing out of her mouth, I assume they must be getting lots of complaints!.
 

A.

Jason, thank you for the kind words. Next to DCA, the "new" Disney Club gets almost as many unhappy e-mails sent to me.

It appears that this was an overhaul only an accountant / bean counter could love. (And yes, I can say they are doing a LOT of refunding.)

I guess the company is getting rather good at that lately?  ;)


The following ten questions were posted on 4/19/01 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.

Bill writes: From Ain't It Cool News I learned there is a massive "game" of internet links all somehow centered around the Spielberg film "AI".

I don't know what any of it means, but in touring around the net world of AI (that's Aee Eye, not Aee elle), I ran across the following interesting tidbit at THIS LINK.

Read the first question and answer. There are mentions of DCA, "It's not pretty, especially if you end up hungry!... It can get expensive." and talk of a vermin extraction program.

Now they wouldn't be talking about the expensive food and eliminating Mickey??
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A.

Sharp observations there Bill! This movie's advance campaign is simply brilliant - they are doing all sorts of unique puzzles and such for it. It certainly has me looking forward to it.

Keep in mind Spielberg is having this movie produced by DreamWorks (along with Warners). After "Sparky" Katzenberg's recent sly comments about "Shrek's" rather pointed jabs at Disney, I frankly wouldn't be surprised if it there really was something there.

BTW, I've had lunch at the DreamWorks campus - MousePlanet was up on more than a few computer screens there as I walked down the halls...  ;)

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Q.

A DCA CM writes Hi Al, love the steady source of information you provide us as readers. So I thought I would return the favor and contribute some info. I am a cast member at DCA and get a lot of info about changes being made or that are in the works.

I don't know if anyone informed [you] in regards to updates about Tower of Terror in Anaheim. WDI was out a couple of weeks ago with their balloons checking site lines and making layouts. We don't want Guests to look down out of the Tower of Terror and see CM's puking their guts outside DCA Cafe' from food poisoning. (This happens quite a bit) Oh how we at DCA long for the Inn Between.

There is also talk of a Rock and Roll roller coaster going in back behind the Animation building. From what I have heard the street in front of the Hyperion will be extended towards the parking lot and be labeled Vine St. Some enhancements to the Hyperion are also being worked on. The queue area will eventually be covered, the stairs will be enclosed, and bathrooms built off to the side. These are actually the final stages in a plan to have longer shows at the Hyperion. The first being Beauty and the Beast. In addition to award shows such as the Emmys. Atlantis is expected to premier there in a couple of months also.

You have probably noticed the large tent next to the limo ride, where Armageddon was originally suppose to go. Since there were so many complaints about no attractions for kids the plans for Armageddon got skuddled in favor of a kid friendly theater ([which] I think you had mentioned awhile ago). This will be a franchised attraction from WDW. Well that 'tent' was overbooked for special events and plans for that attraction will be delayed.

As you have said attendance has picked up quite nicely, with Easter being a little less than Friday and Saturday. Well on Saturday where we saw attendance in the mid 20k's we had to cancel the last two shows of 'Steps in Time' because quite a few cast members of the show had eaten at the DCA Cafe'. I wonder if they had Hamburger....lol Well this was a major blow to us since as you know entertainment is scarce at DCA right now.

I hope we get rid of [the] catering [company] eventually. I myself brown bag it because we had [the same one] at my other current place of employment and food poisoning was a regular occurrence there too. The only difference there is that an outbreak of food poisoning can cost us millions in a slipping production schedule, so we got rid of them.

Just another note before I go. I get tons of opportunities to talk to guests as this is part of the job. When I talk to these folks I encourage them to be very candid and not hold back. Of the few thousand that I have talked to about DCA and how they like it, only 2 have said they were not pleased and one of those was comparing it to Disneyland. That I feel is an unfair comparison since Disneyland has been a work in progress for almost 50 years. DCA will also be a continuous work in progress.

As always keep up the great work.
 

A.

Thank you for the kind note. :)  I'll be sure to check further into some of the items you mention - quite a lot of it matches up things I have been hearing.

And I'll be doubly sure not to have lunch with any CMs backstage at DCA too...  ;)

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Q.

Eduardo writes: Dear Al, Now since the Monorail is used more to transport guests to their hotel rooms, is Disney planning on adding some sort of Fast Pass machine to the attraction? A Fast Past machine, that will give priority to hotel guests. Because I know there are many people like me, who just go on the monorail for relaxing purposes and for trying to get sneak peeks at any new attractions being made, like from the construction of DCA. So all the people like me would be delaying hotel guests, who should have priorities, getting to their rooms.

Is there a possibility that Downtown Disney could receive a Hard Rock Cafe? That would be a fun addition, from traveling on high school band tours, Hard Rock Cafe has been a number 1 destination for me like in Hawaii, San Francisco and now Florida, having one at Disney would add more to having all the other Music Type restaurants, like the house of blues, etc.

Another thing, I am traveling to Florida for a school band trip, and our marching band and choir are performing at Epcot Center and visiting the Magic Kingdom, and Disney's MGM Studios. I cant wait, its a fun experience to perform at Disneyland and now at Walt Disney World and hopefully in the near future to perform at DCA. Does DCA do marching band performances like Disneyland and Walt Disney World? Do performers get any special deals? like free admissions etc...

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A.

Let's answer your questions one at a time:

I think you have an excellent suggestion as to the Monorail - it's gotten more crowded now that the mall (Downtown Disney) is adding more bodies to the mix. A "hotel rider" (similar to a "single rider") line sounds like a good idea.

As far as a Hard Rock - why just settle for something you can see anywhere else, like at CityWalk? Why shouldn't we get something unique to Disney - like a souped up Sci-Fi Diner (as in Disney / MGM)? It is Downtown DISNEY, right? ;)

Disney will be really pushing the Magic Music Days promotions at the new park, especially now that they have zapped the show that used to play outside there, "Lights, Camera, Chaos!"

They used to let the bands in for free in the old days - if they would play a concert or march before a parade. Now they still have to do that stuff, but the whole program has become a profit center. Most everyone now pays an admission fee.

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Q.

Joel writes: Ya' know, it's very annoying that you blur out all the guests' faces in all the photos on your site. For me, at least, a lot of the fun in going to Disney is "people-watching" other guests, especially seeing how kids react to Disney magic. I would have liked, for example, to see how the crowd was reacting in the photos of the new parade at Paris. Don't you think y'all are being just a bit paranoid?

And that ugly logo in the corner of every picture is annoying, too. I think we all know what web site we're looking at. If you feel you must identify every picture, why not try one of those transparent distort logos like the TV networks use?.
 
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A.

If it were a perfect world Joel, we wouldn't have to do these kinds of things...

On the blurs: Did you hear about what just happened to Tom Green (MTV spastic comic / now Drew Barrymore's husband)? He just settled a big case out of court with a person who was filmed reacting to one of his stunts in a subway. Basically the person was in a public place, but he did not consent to use of his face (and reaction to Tom's antics) in Tom's show. (The details of this case may still be listed on Inside.com.)

It's due to these kinds of situations that our lawyers have suggested we blur the photos of visitors to the parks - since we don't have model releases for them.

On the logos: They have to be there to do two things (and they are not what you may be thinking). First it's to help stop theft of our materials from other sites (which was rampant until we started doing it, and still hampers us quite a bit). Second it's to ID us when photos are permitted to be run on other sites (such as Aint-It-Cool-News, which runs our stuff occasionally.)

When you take into consideration how much you pay for MousePlanet... ;) ...I think you'll understand some of the ways we have to do things.

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Q.

Nathan writes: After reading an article about the possible closure of the Country Bear theatre and the number of upset guests, I came up with an idea. Since there are two theatres, why not tear one down and leave the other standing? As a former cast member who worked at Hungry Bear, I know there is some room for expansion behind the restaurant, although some Facilities buildings may have to be moved. A Pooh ride could be built in the area opened up.
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A.

We did mention in a previous update that was one rumor we kept hearing (and still do) for the Bears. I think it would be a smart one too. The park, and I in a way, am so amazed how attached people are to the Bears, even though many performances are to empty houses.

Maybe they could promote it a little better with a more visible entrance in the redo (should they stay) - and get those numbers up.

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Q.

Vernon writes: I've been reading your columns and others on MousePlanet for some time now, long enough to get the rather obvious feel for what some of the things you're trying to communicate are. I had many of the same feelings having worked at WDW this year, and it's all starting to take an effect on me.

Watching what happens to cast members and to guests because of the decisions the executives continue to make. They seem to believe that the profits of the few stockholders is worth taking from the happiness of the many, the millions, of others. I personally think the happiness of just a few is more valuable than the profits of the few, so the effect of this has been like that of fingernails raking across a blackboard.

Having worked in WDW and seeing that very few of the cast members believe anymore. Seeing that the executives make decisions that clearly say the four quality standards are just something that the lowly have to do.... sometimes I can't even finish reading the columns on MousePlanet because I keep feeling so ill.

Fortunately, I think the executives are planting the seeds of their own destruction. The foolishness is so evident to the world that they won't be able to keep blaming and putting the punishment on others for long.

I believe in Disney. I believe in the meaning of it all, and to that end I would absolutely love to be part of anything that speeds the removal of these executives and anything that restores the magic. Here are a couple of things I have thought of so far.

1) Creating a site such as the new Disney traditions site, geared toward WDW and toward the cast member audience itself. As I am now aware, anybody that puts in the the extra to make the magic in the theme parks will most likely not be rewarded, and may even be punished for their efforts. I would like to encourage the good things that they do.

2) Lots of writing for guest relations: about the good experiences and complaints about the bad ones. Now that I've read that people [don't] get their bonuses if they get too many complaints... looks like I have a way to get them back, doesn't it?

3) Development of some catchy slogan to use as a T-Shirt worn on property of WDW or other nearby parks while visiting. Like walking around wearing a shirt that said "Up with Mickey, down with Mikey." Basically as blunt as possible without getting tossed out of the park.

So that's the sort of extreme I'm willing to go to in order to get the word out and speed on the downfall of these executives. With them firmly in place and able to pass blame onto others for their own misdeeds, I think that's the kind of thing it will take. Do you know what the legalities would be with this sort of thing or have other ideas??
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A.

First of all Vernon, thank you for your note. And really, thank you for caring. Judging from the e-mail I get, you aren't alone, and the numbers of people who feel like you are increasing. As far as legalities - well - you are entitled to your reasonable opinion, don't let anyone discourage you from expressing it.

One of the problems I see in communicating to the company that they need to do a better job is the lack of other online sites, such as MousePlanet that "tell it like it is" - and place the reader first in their goals. (The well done wdwblues.com being a notable exception.)

The folks here at MousePlanet tend to have much of the same mindset about how we need to cover all things Disney - we understand it's a business that sells (heck, screams about) quality, and we always look at where that level of that quality is in relation to what you pay for it. Yes, we are critical - but it is in service to the readership, not to feed our egos. I think that's why we are blessed with such a loyal (and steadily growing) readership.

One way you can help spread the word is to let readers know about us - by communicating to others online what we do and how they can benefit from our information and advice. We also gladly welcome links from non- commercial sites, and even votes in online polls such as this one (thanks Karin, for letting us know about it), which wake other folks up to what we are doing. [Yes, we have lots of readers - and are blessed with some very good continuing media coverage - but every little bit helps. :) ]

Now as to how you feel about the Disney magic slipping away - read these next letters - you'll see how people are really starting to notice...

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Q.

Daniel writes: I just went to Disneyland and wanted to give you some observations while I was there:

King Arthur's Carrousel

- The paint on top of King Arthur's Carrousel is really peeling. It looks ugly.

- Toontown's paint has faded severely. It's not just a matter of poor upkeep anymore to me: it's a matter of the storytelling that Disneyland usually does so well. Anyone would expect Toontown is be a vibrantly bright kind of place, and it isn't that right now.

- Main Street... the paint's peeling, but I saw some people working on it in the "alcove" by the lockers.

- $7.99 is CRIMINAL for a BBQ beef sandwich and a baked potatoe. I don't know how they can do this to the paying public. But I heard a rumor that they're letting you bring in food from the "outside world".

NJ writes: Hi, Just wanted to let you know how much we appreciated the info on your site. We visited the Disneyland resort 4/8 - 4/12 staying at the new Grand Californian Hotel. We had Park hopper passes as a resort guest so we were able to go to both parks. This was our 2nd trip to Disneyland - we had been there about 4 years ago. We have also been to Walt Disney World in Florida. Overall I would say our trip was good with a few negatives.

First the good; the new hotel is beautiful; being able to walk to the parks with a stroller was a big plus and the food additions in Downtown Disney were nice. We were able to do all the attractions we wanted (several more than once) using Fastpasses and baby swapping. The longest we waited was 30 minutes for (alas) Dumbo. We entered the park at about 8 am each day.

The bad. My purse was stolen the first day 4/8/01 in Red Rocketts Pizza Port. We had finished dinner, gathered up and walked out and realized I left it on the chair. The max time that elapsed was 10 minutes and it was gone. Another guest saw us looking and asked what we were looking for. They said that they saw an employee take my purse from the chair.

We talked to the manager and so did the witness. I was assured that the employee would take it right to lost and found etc etc. Well, to make a long story short - still no purse was found. I got conflicting stories from everyone I asked about lost and found policy and what they do when they find a purse. These were all from people who should know, manager and employees of the restaurant, security guards and the lost and found people themselves.

California Adventure

We had read much of your commentary before we left. We held our breath as our daughter wanted to go on Mulholland Madness and we did - with no incident. The Superstar Limo was just as you said - not very good. We did go on the Golden Zephyr and we did notice that it was closed often. Not a very good design.

Soarin over California and the Coaster were a lot of fun. I would not however say that the attractions justify the separate admission price - we wouldn't have bothered if we were not on a park hopper. This ticketing issue also delays the lines because the ticket folks have to scrutinize each ticket to see whether you can enter or not.

Disneyland

It was great to visit and do our favorite attractions. We did happen to catch Pirates open. However, we were surprised (even with your insight) at the change in the staff members.

It has been mine and my husbands memory that all of the Disney staff at both WDW & DL were over kind and wonderful. On this trip, I encountered several people who were not even nice at all. There was a woman working the Indiana Jones ride that was so rude - it was almost confrontational. She lambasted my daughter (14) and I because each of us was not holding our own Fastpass. I was holding both of them and there was no line that we were holding up so I don't see the issue! Several people appeared to be doing their shift and that was it.

There were also some very nice people that we met. Whoever was Daisy Duck had a great time with my son (15 mos.) and the sheriff on Tom Sawyer island was really great.

Grand Californian Hotel

The staff at our hotel were really nice too. We were up early with the baby a few days and took him to the lobby to run around. The desk staff was glad to put in whatever DVD we wanted in the little viewing area and offered any other assistance. The valet parking at the hotel was a bargain at $6 a day but we noticed when we left that it was up to $10 per day.

Having a refrigerator in the room was good with a baby however the spot that is not a minibar that guests can use is pretty small. Also the minibar works on a sensor system so you can't remove stuff and put it back without getting charged.

Well, I could go on but I won't. I really appreciated your site info before we left. MY daughter is into scrapbooking so I am anxious to look at the MouseMemories stuff..
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A.

Thank you both for such great letters - first Daniel: As far as I understand it, they still do not officially allow outside food in the parks. I see all sorts of stuff going on though - I am always stunned at how many families just pack their own lunches and bring them along in a backpack. It's always been expensive for a family to eat at a Disney park, and California Adventure (DCA) takes it to new extremes.

NJ - thank you for your very perceptive note. Everyone here at MousePlanet works hard to give the best information to our readers - you are our first priority always.

I especially find your observations about staffing interesting... it's not the same types of cast members we used to see at the parks. (The purse thing is scary!) Your Grand Californian comments ring very true though - in that case the crew there almost always gets great reviews.

By the way - we noticed a very subtle change in Annual Pass sales this past week (thanks to Jeff for this): you can no longer buy a DCA regular ticket, and then upgrade it later (should you change your mind) to a Disneyland only annual pass - it now has to be a two park pass. No ifs... ands... or buts.

My guess here is that they had too many folks taking one look around and then running back to the other side of the esplanade!  (I'd wondered if there were going to get bodies into that park by hook or by crook...)

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Q.

Björn writesI enjoy reading your column. Regarding the problems with attendance at DCA and guests complaining about not getting enough in return for their full admission price I am wondering: Is Disney at all considering to lower ticket prices for DCA? I mean they did the same when they had problems with Disneyland Paris years ago, plus adding seasonal ticket prices, too.
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A.

It is now depending on how well they do this Spring Break week. So far they've been pulling in more numbers than they had been in the past - but it is pretty much due to a very expensive ad campaign.

We'll see. This company's management appears to have the attention span of a chicken. And I'm being generous here. ;)

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Q.

Joe writes: Al, There are a couple of news stories in the April Fool's issue of Digital Media FX that may be of interest to you, particularly the second one on "Eisney"
 

A.

Thank you for providing the link Joe - it was very funny. You know what Philip Roth said about satire: "[It's] moral outrage transformed into comic art." ;)

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Q.

Craig writes: I really enjoy your site. It is always my first "read" after the news. I have a question that may be hard to answer. I have asked several cast members and none seem to know anything about it.

"It" is the strange pavement in the area in front of the stage of "Lights, Camera, Chaos" in DCA. As an architect, I am fascinated with the puzzle of what appears to be almost an archeological ruin of a former building. Although everything has been ground down to produce a level pavement, you can make out the traces of concrete masonry and perhaps poured-in-place concrete walls. There are also areas covered with different patterns of ceramic tile, ground down rings of brass pipe showing where two restrooms probably were, and even oil stains in a "garage" space which appears to have had oversized doors.

Are these really the remains of a building in the former parking lot? If so my guess would be some sort of office and / or maintenance shop near the old Harbor Blvd. entrance to the lot.

But why did they go to so much trouble to preserve this remnant? It would seem to be so much easier to have ripped it all out and installed new pavement. Is this an effort to pay homage to the past? Is it in the same vein as the rumored parking lot light standard in the Indy show building?

Or is this all (or at least partially) a product of Imagineering? The oil stains do look a bit contrived. But again, why go to all this work for something that even the cast members seem not to have noticed?

Or finally, stupid me, is this just a prop for the "Lights, Camera, Chaos!" show that I have not yet seen?

Unless it is the last possibility, I would love to hear if you or any of your readers know anything about this. If it is just part of the show, please forget I asked.

Thanks again for your great site.
 

A.

I noticed it too on the preview days, and have gone back to take a look several times. This work was done on purpose - as there was no building out there in the parking lot originally where this area is located.

My guess (and seeming confirmation upon asking some folks about it) is that they did this to indicate some old sets were there - as you know, on a real movie backlot, they erect and tear stuff down depending on the productions filming there.

It's awfully detailed for a set though if you really examine it - and someone else offered me an explanation that it could have been showing the ruins of an old movie star's bungalow / dressing room. [Nowadays productions just rent a StarWaggon from Lyle Waggoner's company, or utilize a teamster equipped Winnebago on an exterior shoot, it is rare the star that has dressing rooms on a studio lot anymore.]

Seeing how little detail has been put into some areas (such as Paradise Pier) this kind of wonderful effort almost seems like overkill here - it's a shame that this level of quality theming is so inconsistent throughout the new park.


The following ten questions were posted on 4/16/01 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.

Kyle writes: Hi Al. Enjoyed your update and the rumors of adding Goofy to the Superstar Limo ride.

Of course, if they really wanted to pull it off, they should do one thing: hire Jymn Magon to write the story for it. As you probably already know, Jymn was the man responsible for the extremely funny "A Goofy Movie" concerning the adventures of Goofy and his son, Max (who has been putting in appearances at DCA recently) as they travel cross-country from their home to the West Coast. Even if they don't consult with Jymn, I hope some copies of the film (and its sequel) are circulating TDA, giving folks ideas on what the ride could become.

And it wouldn't require too much work to do the rehab, either. In fact, they could get some more mileage out of the under- utilized video screen on those cars. Some good jokes could change the ride from a misguided "star search" to something truly entertaining. Ah, but who am I kidding?.
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Let's hope they are on that track now. The Goofy Movie is one of my favorites too.

I sat outside the exit the other day just to see the reactions from folks who had ridden it - and it was, to be kind here, not pretty. From what I could judge, the anger seems to boil up higher the longer the wait is to ride it. One rather loud- mouthed kid who exited kept shouting out to whoever would listen "SuperStar Lame-oh!"

How come Paul Pressler or Michael Eisner are never around at these kinds of special Disney moments?  ;)

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Q.

Josh writes I went to Disneyland for the first time with my wife, at the age of 25. I had a great time but, I was disappointed that the Matterhorn was closed. How can I get a report on what rides will be working when my family go to Disneyland in September.
 

A.

You can visit this page on our site to find a listing - and while doing so keep in mind that schedules do change constantly.

If you really have your heart set on a particular ride, what I would do is wait until it is actually IN a rehab, then plan a visit for shortly afterwards. That way you can be assured you will be able to enjoy it. There are too many other variables otherwise.

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Q.

Tom writes: Hello, My family and I recently went to California Adventure Park. We were pleasantly surprised because the media had painted the Park as overpriced and short on rides and things to see. The five of us had a great time on the rides and loved the beautiful landscaped areas.

We went on a weekend and stayed at a local hotel. We were prepared for the prices, but didn't see much of a price problem. The people who complained about the prices should try attending a hockey game sometime. We tried Disney's Fastpass and recommend it as the way to go. With the temperatures on the rise, the water ride was our favorite. We dried out fast enough, especially after I had to show my son that "dad" still could outrace him in the Challenge trail.

We must have mistimed our visit because we kept looking for the walking tree that someone told us about. They said it was amazing to watch walk around. The parade is a must-see and hopefully the music played by them will be available soon.

The only attraction we thought was disappointing was California Dreams. We came out of the movie so down and depressed. I like history and reality as much as the next guy but we go to Disney for escape. In the film the women were abused and downtrodden; the Chinese were abused - they even blow up a child; the miners were "losers" according to the woman on the screen, and this was all laced together with a few uplifting moments of sports and some tech improvements. All my son could remember was the Chinese boy on the side of the mountain being blown to bits.

Sure hope Disney rethinks this one and loses the bad parts. Even Whoopi Goldberg couldn't rescue this one. I know all these things happened in California history but there are so many more ways of showing the coming of age pleasantly. We weren't the only ones shocked by the harshness, several others around us were talking about it also.

Thank you for providing an enjoyable site to peruse and give feedback..

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A.

Thank YOU Tom for the thoughtful note - let's see if I can answer some questions here for you:

First, a photo of "DiVine" (below) - so you can see what you missed. It could well be that you may have walked right by her and never noticed she was there, she is that good. She appears to be a hit with the crowds.

DiVine

The parade music is coming on an official park CD very soon, keep checking with us as to when it becomes available.

(A note for all California Adventure visitors about the parade - it seems they have cut back performances to just one now in the evenings (8 PM this week for example).

I understand they did this when they kept seeing half empty routes on both shows, so they decided they wanted one full performance instead and to pay the performers for half a day instead of a full one.)

As far as the Golden Dreams movie - I keep hearing they will get rid of the death scene, I'll keep folks abreast of when it happens if it does.

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Q.

"T" writes: Al, Just read the LA Times piece regarding the mouse ears actor in the 'Soaring Over California' pre-show and his resemblance to you. I think it is coincidence since he is actually not a actor, but an Emmy award winning writer from Frasier named Jay Kogen. He is a Disney fan and has connections with the Mouse House.
 
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Thank you for that T! You know, I swear I saw that guy on Seinfeld - as have several other people who have written me on that.

I'm still getting e-mail on this - despite letting folks know it isn't me.  :)

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Q.

Matt writes: I have a comment about the Mullholland Madness ride. I just went to a preview day at Paramount's Great America in Santa Clara. They have a new ride called "Psycho Mouse" (a mad mouse ride) made by Arrow Dynamics (I think you know who they are). They had a party and show for some, about 150, big wigs, then with great fanfare, opened the ride.

I rode Psycho Mouse within the first hour of it opening for the first time (after all the big wigs and invites). I thought it was a great ride. No injuries what so ever, nor did there seem to be a chance of any. As I write this I understand Mullholand Madness is still closed due to injuries. Do you know who designed Mullholland Madness? They must be new in the roller coaster biz.
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A.

Our Mad Mouse ...er Mulholland Madness... at DCA (California Adventure) is now back open, and it appears to run at a slower pace than before. (It had a forty minute wait on Sunday for example.)

From what I understand the same company also just built LegoLand's new Technic Coaster. The big differences between the two are 1] the track layout, Lego's has a bigger initial drop, and 2] the car design, Lego's is a custom built vehicle.

I suspect the problem isn't so much with the coaster track, than it is with the actual design of the ride cars. Lego's coaster doesn't make you sit with a shield around you (as with most coasters of this type), Disney's does. Take a look at Lego's car HERE, then our photo below of Mulholland's car:

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Q.

Brian writes: Love your site. I read this on your recent update and saw the photos:

In the shot below you can see they have boarded up the old Fantasyland skyway station - what with the pried off shields, and the unpainted plywood, it looks like a tenement.

Wouldn't the old station be a great character photo-meet place? Not to hard to fix up for that, huh? What do you think?
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A.

The problem with using the facility again, from what I was told, has to do with disabled access. This was dealt with in the past when it was the skyway by making the Tomorrowland station accessible, and allowing for a round trip.

Like you, I'd love to see that building used again - if nothing else for a dessert shop. Could you imagine having a nice coffee and rich Swiss chocolate goodie up there, with a view from above of Fantasyland?

The location is also rumored to be one of the areas they are considering for the entry point to a new attraction. Although with the current budgeting mindset, I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Q.

Don writes: Hello Al, I thought you might be interested in something that happened to My wife and I last weekend. We were visiting our local Disney store and had stopped to watch the California Adventure (DCA) commercial on the big screen. It was the one with Buzz looking over the berm at Disneyland and describing the new park. Anyway, a store employee notices us and walks over from across the store. She then proceeded to nervously say to us "They have lots of rides there" and quickly walk away again.

That was it. No offer to help us find anything or answer questions. Just a quick suggestion that there really is something to do at DCA. In fact, those were the only words spoken to us during our entire 10 minute visit to the store. My wife and I had to leave the store so as not to start laughing then and there. It was so obvious that she was following company orders to sell the impression that CA had lots to do. They must be getting a little desperate when they start telling Disney Store cast member to talk up the parks. Have you heard of anyone else having this kind of experience?

Actually, I look forward to visiting DCA someday, even though I am not under the illusion that it has "lots of rides." DCA may not be Disney at its best, but it still looks better than your average Six Flags park. Lets just hope that Cynthia Harris can talk some sense into Eisner and Company and convince them to invest in more maintenance and E ticket attractions so that DCA can become an exceptional experience like the ones they are building in Japan.

Thanks for running such a great site. I check Mouse Planet daily for news on my favorite place on earth. BTW, if you happen to run into Sue Kruse, tell her Don from Austin says Hi. I met her at one of the Club 33 / Imagineering events last year.
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A.

Don, first - thanks for the kind note.

I hope they do something with that new park also. But I'm not holding my breath for anything to happen this year.

As you noticed at your local Disney Store, they really have been pushing it - and this past week the company bombarded the airwaves here in the L.A. area with a saturation ad campaign. It got attendance up for Friday - whereupon it dropped back down again quite a bit on Saturday, and then picked up just slightly on Sunday (later on in the afternoon).

Although Disneyland is probably expected to crow about a "new resort attendance record" to the press - most likely today - the fact remains that they are still not meeting projections for the new park.

I'm wondering just how much it cost them, per head, in advertising costs this past weekend to get those numbers. Of course they probably won't be making those figures available to the media... ;)

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Q.

Brian writesHere's an interesting one for you. I know that Anaheim is known for its superior utility, but as you may know it is part of the state power grid.

I have a list of state power plants, which includes ones which corporations have, and Disney doesn't own their own power plant here in California.

So, my question is, what kind of power deal does Disney have with Anaheim power officials and what would happen at The Disneyland Resort if it were hit with a rolling blackout? .

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A.

I'm getting a LOT of similar e-mails from the readers. Here's a quote from a Yahoo News / AP story that ran today, which is on our news page:

Disneyland may be among the luckier contributors to California's $15.4 billion tourist industry: It gets its power from the city of Anaheim, not power-strapped utility Southern California Edison, said spokeswoman Chula Castano- Lenahan. The city has a more stable power supply and that lowers the risk of blackouts, she said. She declined to discuss contingency plans.

I have to be honest here, I wouldn't worry about the Disneyland Resort getting blacked out this summer. The city of Anaheim could suffer quite a bit financially if they could not deliver power to them. No watts, no wealth, if you know what I mean.

Universal Studios, Sea World and Six Flags Magic Mountain are other matters though. We'll keep poking around to find out exactly what their plans are.

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Q.

Chris writes: Al, To echo many before me, thanks for a great column. My only complaint is that I have to wait for updates more than a day. ;)

I have many great memories of Disneyland and the hotel. When I was young we used to stay at the Disneyland Hotel and my favorite thing to do was to watch the dancing waters. I got to know the gentleman who used to manually do the show and he would let me help. He would actually "play a console" like a piano. Would you or someone on your staff be willing to do a special article on this attraction? Maybe some old pictures?

I know it is not part of Disneyland per se, but I think it would make great reading while sharing some history. Nothing was like the feeling you got while listening to the finale song, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". On a few occasions I saw peoples eyes watering. It is a great memory!.
 

A.

Actually Chris, I think we have the person who can write that article at hand. I'll rattle his cage a bit and see if I can get him to start typing away.

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Q.

Helen writes: Al, Just want to say I love your column. You and your colleagues at MousePlanet are doing a great - and entertaining - job.

The very best thing you do is discuss and publish pictures of dilapidated Disneyland. Since those running Disney now are shameless, they cannot be shamed. Nevertheless, your photos and column may yet prove very effective: they keep people like me and my family from planning a visit. Why would we spend our hard-earned money on a shadow of the former Disneyland? Who goes on vacation to get depressed by closed / defunct rides, wood rot, and peeling paint?

So, keep up the good work. Yours is a righteous cause.

Long live the Submarine Voyage,
 

A.

First of all, thank you for the kind words.

In running the photos of the problems we encounter at the park more often now, the idea isn't to discourage a visit - but to make you aware of just how little is thought of the paying customer.

If by chance you do visit, and the Haunted Mansion looks the worst it ever has, you can complain at City Hall. These folks now running the parks really only respond to squeaky wheels now - if no one complains they assume you aren't noticing.

So don't let me discourage you from visiting - in the same way I don't want to discourage you from complaining about the quality of your experience, should it be warranted. If you're not a customer, they don't really want to listen it seems.


The following twenty (yes, twenty, aren't you lucky!) questions were posted on 4/3/01 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.

Jim writes: Hi Al, If the Disney executives are complaining about low numbers, it may be because people like us are having a hard time spending our money on the premises.

On Monday evening March 19, 2001, my wife, adult daughter (21) and I drove to Downtown Disney for dinner (6:30 pm) at the ESPN Zone. After using our premium Disneyland annual pass to park gratis in the new parking structure, we took the shuttle to Downtown Disney and walked through the complex.

Upon arrival at ESPN Zone, we were informed by the doormen that the two restaurants downstairs were closed for the evening but the game room upstairs was open. I told them that wasn't my plan for the evening and walked away. Several other guests also walked up to eat and were quite disappointed.

On the way back through we noticed that Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen was also closed for the evening. Not being interested in the other area choices we went back to our vehicle and departed the Disney complex. choosing instead to dine over in Fullerton.

If Disney hopes to entice locals to the Downtown Disney concept, their dining establishments had better start being available on a regular basis or we simply won't bother to drop in.

(Full disclosure: we own stock in Walt Disney Corp.).
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A.

I get a LOT of complaints such as yours Jim - but none of them had things closing that early! If that's a policy, it's a bad one. My guess here is that they had a private party, and just shut off access to the restaurants to accommodate it. (Which of course doesn't make it easy for the customers such as yourself.)

I think another one of the big problems they have with Downtown Disney in Anaheim are the tram announcements they make. They always inform you that Downtown Disney is open until 2 AM, and that the trams run until 3 AM.

My experience each night I stay late, no matter if it's a weekend or weekday, is that they start closing things early - usually at midnight - with only the clubs open for drinks until late. It's confusing to say the least - I see people expecting the shops to remain open late, and they are not.

Universal certainly doesn't run their CityWalk this way (from what limited experience I have of it).

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Q.

John writes Hello Al, First off let me say, that your site is a permanent fixture on my browser. My wife and I truly love your site and read it daily. The information you offer those of us who grew up in Disneyland, and those who have never been, is simply outstanding.

My wife and I have been married now for six and a half years. We both grew up in Ojai California and both of us growing up in our respective family's have spent many wonderful days and nights at Walt's remarkable achievement. This family instilment carried over on both of us. We spent our honeymoon at Disneyland. Since then my wife and I for our vacations have tried to visit Disneyland once a year because of the happiness it has brought to us. This once a year excursion is not a cheap 3 hour drive from Ojai. My wife and I relocated to Coeur d'Alene Idaho 4 years ago, and Coeur d'Alene is roughly an hour and a half south of the Canadian border. Family still lives in Ojai so we trek down once a year on our vacations to see loved ones and visit Disneyland.

This year we will not.

While we will visit family, Disneyland has now been pulled from our agenda. This is the first time that Disneyland will not be a part of our vacation in some way shape or form.

Why?

It's simple. From what I've read and seen, Disneyland's new "little sister" does not offer something that it's older kin has had since day one.

**** Disney Magic.****

It's sad in this day and age of Micro Management, that the most simple of things are overlooked...

Oh!! My question? Simple. What do you think of an updated return of the People Mover? The Rocket Rat's have got to go....
 

A.

John, even with all the problems at the resort now - Disneyland Park itself, for me at least, still captivates. But I agree with you about the new park - they did their best to distill the magic out of it.

I find it very interesting, what with the addition of characters, the bringing on of the annual passes, and the apparent full court press now on bringing in kid's rides (including the rumored Goofy make over of Superstar Limo) that everything they had decided on is turning out to be pretty much wrong.

You'd think they would be as astute as some of their critics.

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Q.

Scott writes: You'll be hearing from my lawyer...

Your commentary keeps getting better and better.

Yesterday, while drinking my morning cup of joe and reading your update, a near accident occurred...

I have been an avid reader of your site (DIG and MousePlanet) for some time now and appreciate your "voicing" of issues plaguing the Disney Resort. As a SoCal native, I have been going to DL for some +40 years, first with my parents, now with my children, and probably with my (future) grandchildren.

I agree with you. I never recall Disneyland looking forlorn; rides either neglected or abandon (was Carousel of Progress / America Sings left unused during the Eisner era as well?). And now Disney builds an amusement park that (is suppose to[?]) reminds me of the old Belmont Park (in San Diego). Don't get me wrong, I loved Belmont Park and spent many a summer day there, but I always expected more, a great deal more, from Disney. Ahh, times change don't they.

...reading your update and mentally noting the now, all to familiar issues, I read the line "we can imagine the folks at WDI (Imagineering) are working on all new concepts for this ride - maybe you fall into a tin of sardines instead of plunging down an elevator shaft?," and that sip of hot coffee almost went back through my nose. An unpleasant and potentially dangerous situation. I should think you of all people would be concerned with the safety aspect. Perhaps you should have warning posted on your website.

Anyway, keep up the good work to you and all the MousePlaneteers. .

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A.

Thanks for the kind note Scott. :)  We're blessed with an increasing audience for what we are doing here - with most folks understanding that this isn't about being negative, it's about letting folks know they deserve more for their money - or at least with current Disney management, at least what they used to get at today's ever steeper prices.

Maybe if they don't like the Tower of Terror drop into a sardine can they can do the Mondavi Tubs of Terror wine stomping attraction? Imagine the extra they can charge for "body painting" as the grapes stain your skin.  ;)

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Q.

Grace writes: Al, we've been a bit frustrated lately, because your comments about how no one seems interested in guest feedback are only too true.

As an example, we were at Disneyland on March 14th celebrating a birthday, and noticed that the music still wasn't working on Space Mountain. We had read in your column that maintenance just isn't being done, so we decided to comment at City Hall. I noticed that the cast member didn't even make a note of our comment!!! It's all very well to smile and say she's so sorry we were disappointed (I don't envy her that job), but if no one bothers to compile information on what customers want and expect, of course nothing will ever be done!

Thanks for all the great work on the site!
 
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A.

Grace, thanks for your note.  One of the things they actively discourage is the writing of any kind of complaints or reports. Bonuses are paid out on how few they get - which is what is behind not wanting to offer a complaint form.

[And yes, someone from City Hall will write me and say that isn't so - at least on their shift - while I have to point out yet again I get many letters such as the one Grace sent on a regular basis.]

My suggestion is to always insist on a report form - and turn down any "make goods" they will try and offer to placate you with (such as line passes, or meal comps). This shows you are serious about voicing your complaint - and are not just doing it for a freebie.

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Q.

Kyle, Gina (and Lisa) write: Hi, Just read your Column from the lady asking about getting checks with Disney on them. They just started making them, they have 3 different kinds and they are great. They have a set of 5 designs of the classics and then they have Winnie the pooh and last there is the Mickey Mouse ones. They have covers to match and address return labels to match.

They are at this link, or you can call them at 1 800-565-8332. Hope this helps.
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Did I mention just how wonderful the MousePlanet readers are? A nicer bunch a website could not ask for.

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Q.

Tim writes: Dear Al - - I commend you and your team at MousePlanet on your diligence in documenting the decline of what was once an American / International institution - - The Walt Disney Company. Some years ago there was a book and TV documentary entitled "When The Lion Roared" that detailed the glory days and eventual decline of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Today, one could easily produce a book entitled "When The Mouse Roared," because, unfortunately, Disney is running itself into the ground as well.

As a former Cast Member of the Disney Theme Parks and Corporate in Burbank, I read each morning, with a mix of sadness and curiosity, your various columns on MousePlanet. Your recent info regarding Cast Members being allowed to wear their D/L costumes virtually anywhere really shocked me.

Once upon a time, Dick Nunis (legendary President of the Disney Theme Parks) wouldn't even let various Disney Theme Park divisions create Cast Member specific / morale boosting T-Shirts or satin jackets for fear that by wearing such apparel the person wearing the attire represented "Disney" and he didn't want the Disney image soiled by being seen in a bar, strip club, 7-Eleven, etc. That's the type of executive pride and attention-to-detail totally lacking in the executives running Disney today. Can you imagine how Marty Sklar and John Hench must feel knowing that some guy in his very recognizable Jungle Cruise outfit can easily be seen knocking a few back and having a smoke in a local bar!

The fundamental problem with the entire Disney organization today is that it doesn't stand for or represent any core philosophies or moral principles anymore. I am certainly not a religious nut or prude, but Disney did used to represent "the finest in family entertainment," a genre of product that appealed to every member of the family and was produced for the audience enjoyment first and foremost, not concern primarily for the stockholders (which also really doesn't seem like a high priority either right now).

In my opinion there is a very definite campaign afoot, spearheaded by Eisner, Pressler, etc. to eradicate the foundations and guiding principles laid-down by Walt and Roy Disney years ago. I know times have changed, but those same principles still apply or books such as "The Disney Way" or "Inside The Magic Kingdom" wouldn't be used in business classes today.

Eisner and Co. want to create their own "new traditions" and put their own personal mark on the Company, all the while trying to remind everyone that "Walt is dead." Walt may be dead, but his name is still on the Company. If they could push their egos aside and promote him and his philosophies, I believe the Company would be much better off and the current crop of Disney execs wouldn't come off looking like a bunch of jealous leeches.

I realize it sounds futile, but I would urge your readers to inundate Roy Disney and the entire Disney Board of Directors with their concerns, expressed in thoughtful and well-written letters (not just rants). These letters should also be copied to Eisner, Pressler and Harriss. Maybe with a little luck we can all change the tide a little so that when a contemporary history of Disney is written it won't be "When The Mouse Roared" (past tense) but rather "When The Mouse Roars."

Keep up the good work.

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A.

Tim, first thank you for your well written note. I agree with much of what you've said in it. Although Eisner has been quoted (even recently on the Charlie Rose interview) that he is still very concerned about the Disney family brand - most folks are starting to see a strip mining pattern at work here in how the company's assets are being exploited.

Granted, even Walt Disney himself suffered from this type of criticism in his day (there are always rants about how expensive Disneyland has been for example, even from opening day), but the feeling generally was that they were running a company at that time that did put their family entertainment roots first. And (for example) there was a great deal of care to run merchandising campaigns so they didn't tire out a property.

Nowadays, what with the selling off of the animated library to foreign TV, the slash and burn overexposure of some of the characters (the Pooh franchise in particular) and programming (Millionaire run into the ground) - plus the rush to some low quality sequels (the Buzz Lightyear release in particular set my teeth on edge) it seems to me that they are not building the brand anymore for future generations.

If you're wondering why the stock price is staying so low - people from the financial community also seeing these problems could very well be one of the reasons behind this.

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Q.

Steve writes: Someone wrote [to you]:

One thing that I think you're overlooking when talking about [California Adventure's] attendance numbers however is the current state of the economy

I might accept that notion, if I had not gone to Knott's this past weekend. It was absolutely packed with people having a great time. More people than I can honestly remember ever being at the park. It was a "45 minute wait for Jaguar" kind of crowd.

Of course Knott's continuously offers discount tickets and afternoon promotions (we got in for $21.95). It has the best wooden coaster, in the world, classic dark rides likes the Calico Mine Train and Timber Mountain Log Ride, a great raft-ride, one of the tallest free-fall drop rides on earth, and offers and almost 10 times the number of children's attractions that DCA has, plus you can get a decent Italian meal for four people for $19.99... but all those things mean nothing right?

It is just the economy, the weather, and which way the wind is blowing. Actually, maybe the economy does play a part. Maybe it gets people to realize what things are actually worth, and make better choices. People are not stupid. They are willing to pay for a great experience, but you must provide it for them first. I can get better rides, and better prices just down the street from DCA. Do I really have a choice?

I love what you do Al, thanks.!!
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A.

Steve, all I can say is Amen.  Great observations there. :)

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Q.

Lisa writesHi Al, I am such a fan of MousePlanet, I read it daily. I have been a CM at the Disney Store near my home for 5 1/2 years. We go to Disneyland each year and just got back a week ago. I've heard so dang much negativity about the new park that we needed to make our own opinion. (By the way, the biggest complaint we get at my store is how you are not able to "park hop" without staying on a Disney property.)

My question is this: Does anyone want to hear about a family of 4 that had a good time at DCA? I agree that there is not much for little kids. But mine are older, (10 & 13) and they loved what there was to do. We were there on a Friday, and we basically had the park to ourselves. We rode on "Soarin" (everyone's favorite) 4 times throughout the day. We walked on everything else, and all the shows. "California Dreams" was so moving, I was bawling my head off by the time it was over. I also agree that this is easily a 1 day park, but it is so worth going to. And then there was "Downtown Disney."

What fun!! We had such a great time that we plan to go back in the fall. Have you received any other e-mails of people actually enjoying themselves at DCA? I'd be interested in hearing.

Cindy writes: Saw your mail column today from the people in Northern California. I don't really see how one anecdotal story can represent "what people in Northern California" think. Friday night, I ran into an older co-worker who had friends (woman and her two almost teenage children) in from Arizona, so they all decided to go to DCA. They didn't want to pay the full price to go to both DL and DCA, so they picked DCA, and they all had a great time. She loved Soarin' so much that she went on it three times, and she loved what Paradise Pier looked like at night.

She said she wasn't really sure what to expect from DCA because from what she'd heard, she didn't think there would be stuff she'd want to ride, but she was very impressed with DCA. The two kids absolutely loved Screamin' and Maliboomer and Grizzly River Run, and the girl was apparently entranced with the "Lights, Camera, Action" show.

From this trip, my co-worker is going to have a raving recommendation about DCA, and at least one family in Arizona is going to be telling people about their great day at DCA.

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A.

I don't think anyone here has ever said no one likes California Adventure (DCA).

The problem remains in the numbers - just how many people do enjoy it as opposed to not liking it.

They are still very lopsided (according to Disney's own surveys - not to mention the feedback you can hear at guest relations in either park).

Spring Break numbers have been up - and the park has now experienced some level of crowds - but they still are not meeting projections, even now that they've been lowered somewhat.

Here's a rumor I keep hearing for after Spring Break, that may help attendance somewhat:

That they a] will offer some kind of discount DCA add on ticket to a regularly priced Disneyland admission to encourage visits, and b] a park hopping type of local resident ticket will also be offered.

At a $20 or $25 additional add on cost, I think most folks will bite. And the complaints will go down too - since customers will be getting a better value.

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Q.

Dreamfinder's Shadow writes: Hi Al, I have enjoyed your website and all the contributions from your colleagues for the longest time but I've not really had the time to contribute anything. That is until now. As much as I hate certain aspects of the Walt Disney Company, such as Fastpass and some other things, nothing irks me nearly as much as what you've referred to as Fast Track.

See, down here in Florida we call it Cast Zooming (Fast Track was already taken since that's what all the confused guests call Test Track and / or Fastpass, and in a humorous move, Universal adopted for their own virtual queuing system). We have now had Cast Zooming for almost 2 years, if memory serves. It is pretty much property wide, with the exception of Magic Kingdom, where they still have walk time, and a few other departments where they either have very expensive costumes (some of the Pavilions in World Showcase) or just a very short supply (Innoventions comes to mind).

There are three major reasons the company has done this in Florida. First of all, they say it saves us time, but what it really does is keep us in our work areas for 15 minutes longer that, although they pay us either way, they pay us for work rather than personal time.

Second, it reduces a lot of the budget for Costuming, since they don't need as many Cast Members, and they can run on limited hours, or in some parks, limited days, such as Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom. At Epcot, Costuming is still open seven days a week, but there are less people to help you and instead of being open 6 am until 9 pm like when I started there, it is now 7 am until 6 pm I believe.

Finally it saves them money on laundry. They do not have to spend as much money on the wash along with Cast Members to do it because it does reduce the amount of laundry they have! Although Cast are NOT required or even encouraged to do their own laundry, many just do this for finding it more convenient (besides, there is horrible quality control in Disney's way of laundry, I have horror stories of being out on stage and my costume foaming up in the rain since all the soap was not rinsed out!)

I believe Cast Zooming was started by Lee Cockerell, who is an enemy of the company as all of his policies regard the bottom line. Now he has his own publication for Cast called "The Main St. Diary". Not only is it filled with propaganda and garbage, but is full of hypocrisy. One issue responded to some of the maintenance around property saying (Of course there are going to be some chipped paint and burned out bulbs, get over it, people!).

Just recently [Lee] spoke of a carousel that looked beautiful from afar but up close had chipped paint and broken parts and how we cannot have things like that as a company. Which stance does the man wish to take? He truly does not realize the long term harm this is doing when there are Guests complaining about Cast Members drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, acting vulgar or engaging in provocative behavior in front of the general public in full or partial costume, sometimes with a nametag.

Here is some interesting WDW ticketing info: WDW park hoppers are valid at Disneyland OR California Adventure but are not valid for park hopping over there. That is not something that is supposed to be actively spieled to Guests but, oops, oh well. Oh, and due to Animal Kingdom's ever-worsening attendance (and you thing DCA is a mess? you should see DAK!), Seasonal blockouts for the summer only have been lifted!

Keep up the great work and make sure the people know the truth. You may not work for the company like myself and others, but lets just say that the true loyalists from all walks of life within the company, hourly and salaried, do enjoy your work and view you as someone who is trying to make a positive difference.
 

A.

Thank you for the update and kind words DF - they made my day.

As you may, or may not know, Disneyland has its own version of Lee from what I understand - his name is Byron Pollitt.

Byron's favorite "money saving" tactic (from what I have been told) is to get people to price out a solution to something - then after all their hard work to nail every penny down for what is barely needed, only allow them half of the cost they asked for in his budget.

While the guy crows about how he is saving the company money, we get half as many parking spaces than needed for CMs, no paint on attractions, and an ever increasing sense of unease when it comes to maintenance on rides.

To show you how bad people feel about him, in all the years I've been working on this site I have gotten a few notes defending Paul Pressler's misguided decisions - but never has anyone had anything but bad news about Byron to send to me.

He's a mean one that Grinch. ;)

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Q.

John writes: Al, I've been following MousePlanet's reports on all the problems with DCA, and the various rumors about what's in store for DL. A couple of weeks back I had a thought of how Disney could address several things at once, and I can't believe I haven't seen anyone else mention it yet.

Put the MSEP in DCA.

What does this do for Disney?

* Gives guests a reason to stay in DCA in the evening.

* Gives DCA a known crowd-pleaser.

* If they really are planning to bring the MSEP back to DL, then they're already planning to spend most of the money it would require.

* Lets Disney weasel out of all the "glowing away forever" statements--after all, it hasn't come back to DL Park. They'd have to rename the parade, which would also help with this.

Of course, ideally they would spend the extra money to do it right and make it more than a DL hand-me-down. Some ideas:

- Change the music. Personally, I could listen to Baroque Hoedown for hours on end, but I know not everyone feels the same. Keeping some bit of the old music (like they did for <shudder> Light Magic) would be a nice touch. For some reason the thought "Baroque Hoedown performed by Dick Dale" keeps running through my mind even though I couldn't tell you what that would sound like.

- Add some new parade units, and possibly retire some. The DCA Sun logo is an obvious one, and I'm sure there are other possibilities in California and/or DCA itself.

By the way, whatever happened to the idea that the reason the MSEP glowed away in the first place was that the parade units were old and getting beyond repair?
 

A.

Don't think it wasn't discussed, it was. Instead we got the Eureka parade at DCA, which I just found out had two floats cut out of it at last minute (even while they were under construction) thanks to massive budget cuts.

[Let's see, they did a salute to all of California's ethnic flavors, such as Chinese, Mexican and African Americans - plus the rather unique and special ethnicity of skateboarders and surfers, so what could be left? Hmmm, Koreans? - Dot.coms? - Poor people?]

As far as the MSEP "glowing away" due to the units being old and beyond repair - there is ONE thing I am convinced the company under Eisner would do if they could, and that is bring back Walt Disney himself to hawk even more stuff for them. ;)

Nothing ever gets thown away at Disneyland if they can find some way to reuse it, that I can assure you.

Ok, the mail lately has been VERY heavy! You get ten more questions answered today.

Q.

Esther writes: I was wondering what is the limited height for children and rides.  We are planning a trip in May but cant find anything that tells me exactly how high my 5 yr old should be.Thank you for your help.
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A.

Here are two links for you: heights for Disneyland, and heights for California Adventure. Both detail what you need to know.

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Q.

Wade writes Ryan noted that there was an image of Paul Pressler on the Limo ride at DCA. I'm curious, is there an image of Walt Disney?
 

A.

I looked and looked (after having to suffer that ride - you guys think my job is easy!) and couldn't locate one. If any readers know of his likeness, I'd love to know.

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Q.

PB writes: [In one of your reader mails] Robert had written:

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.

That guy is wrong...I'm on fast track and i wash my three costumes at home, i never turn them in, therefore i don't ever deal with costuming.

A.

Thanks for the clarification PB - it sounds like you're doing what they do in Walt Disney World.

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Q.

Mark writes: MousePlanet Staff -- I love, love, love MousePlanet! I can't wait each morning to see what news I'll get and to be transported for a little while to places that I can't physically visit often enough. Thank you all for that!

I can't believe nobody else has asked these questions...

How do you afford to put the site together? You contributors / staff all obviously invest a large amount of time in the site. And there must be a significant financial expense involved in maintaining the site.

Does MousePlanet make a profit? Do you need money? Are you considering making the site available only by paid subscription? Would it be appropriate for grateful faithful readers such as myself to send a small contribution?

Does Al get up at 5am every morning to update the site?

Thank you again for the wonderful updates, and for what feels like messages from friends each day. I would be more than happy to make a contribution to help express my gratitude...!
 
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A.

Wow, what a considerate and flattering letter to get from you Mark. I'm sure the MousePlanet team is just as touched with it as I am.

To answer a few of your questions here:

How do you afford to put the site together? You contributors / staff all obviously invest a large amount of time in the site. And there must be a significant financial expense involved in maintaining the site. Does MousePlanet make a profit? Do you need money?

Although it was tough sledding at first - we are starting to see results now. Unfortunately we began the site under one set of business plans (remember how all dot.coms were going to make it big?), but we all now realize it will be a lot more hard work to make it grow at the levels of what we know it is capable of.

One of the things that helps is clicking through on our banner ads - even if you just do it once on a visit, it does make it easier for us. We also have other areas of revenue we are developing - as no website can just exist on just ads alone. Keep in mind, every time you book a trip through us, or order via MouseShoppe, you help us out.

Are you considering making the site available only by paid subscription? Would it be appropriate for grateful faithful readers such as myself to send a small contribution?

We have been constantly looking at subscriptions (as our traffic is sizeable enough to support that concept) but we are still interested in making them really work value-wise for our readers. We have some ideas about this for the future - but due to our competition - we won't disclose what they are at this time.

Does Al get up at 5am every morning to update the site?

MousePlanet's daily content is put together all night long - with work starting usually mid-afternoon rounding up materials - and layout and design taking place for the most part from midnight till 5 or 6 AM. (Sooner if we can possibly do it.)

Right now it's a one man job (mine) for the most part - but that should hopefully change soon.

I wonder when I will get a vacation?  ;)

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Q.

Mara writes: Dear Al, Thanks for the great web site. I check here every night to see what's new at Disneyland and DCA. I just added on DCA to my season pass (ouch!) on Sunday. My daughter and I got to DCA about 3:30 p.m. and it was fairly crowded. The fast passes were gone for Soarin' so it took about 1 1/2 hours to get on that one. The coaster was a much shorter wait time and I have to say I thought it was great.

We didn't get to see much because of the crowds and not being able to stay too late (school night & all that). I guess it will be worth the price to go on the coaster every now and then. Personally, I'll take Disneyland. I do agree with you on the obvious lack of upkeep there. Looking forward to MouseAdventure. We'll be getting a team together for the first time. See you then.

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A.

Mara, thank you for the update! I think DCA is less painful for folks when they can get a deal on it. The AP hoppers help, as you always can enjoy both parks rather than just the one.

Until they come up to speed with the attractions offered at DCA, they will have to look at add on or hopper types of tickets to keep the complaints down I would think.

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Q.

Travis writesI'm curious to know what TDA (Team Disney Anaheim - management) attributes to DCA's rise in attendance this past weekend. Are they saying it's due to the nicer weather, due to selling Annual Passports again, or something else?
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A.

Both the sales of Annual Passes and the Spring Break vacationers are what they see coming in the gates.

I am curious to see if they will offer a discount after the break, and how it will affect the numbers.

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Q.

Kara writes: Hi i'm doing a marketing report on Disney theme parks and I'm hoping you might be able to tell me what the capacity for Disneyland is?
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A.

They have squeezed up to about 80,000 during the end of the Electrical Parade. At that point it is elbow to elbow, and there are lines for everything - including the men's rooms.

They normally pull in about 50,000 to 60,000 on peak days (Saturdays for the most part) - and they do not like anything less than 20,000 (what with all the promotions and such, they can more and more reach now, at least on a regular basis). The days of under 20,000 are getting fewer and fewer.

California Adventure was slated to take up to 30,000 a day, but they rarely have met that - which has thrown all their numbers off.

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Q.

Patti writesI've scoured the news sites to see if there is any word about how the rolling blackouts in California are affecting Disneyland. My son and I have reservations for mid May and are wondering if we will be shopping more than riding.

Tracey also writesWe are planning a visit to Disneyland in June and were wondering how the energy shortages are impacting park operations.
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A.

The city of Anaheim owns its own power plant, and Disney is number one on their list. They have yet to say they will have any problems. None are expected.

The only times they have been blacked out, have been during windstorms or other technical or natural disasters. Those as you can imagine, have been far and few.

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Q.

Andy writes: Al, It looks like Six Flags is getting their own version of Fast Pass at Six Flags over Georgia, according to their website.

Near the bottom of the page, they claim that "Six Flags over Georgia will be the first U.S. theme park to implement a system that replaces long waits with a computerized 'virtual line'..."

Clearly, they are mistaken about being the first, unless you assume at least one of three points:

a. Disneyland is no longer a "theme" park

b. The notion that this system "replaces" long waits (as opposed to supplementing them re: standby lines

c. Anaheim is no longer in the U.S.

Personally, I'd like to have seen Disney abandon the idea, but it appears as though the trend is unstoppable now that the first of many Six Flags parks now has it.
 

A.

And both Sea World and Universal Studios are also bringing on the "virtual line" concept.

I'd like to see how this develops since Disney has patents all over the FastPass system, and it seems to me that the other parks would have a hard time working around them.

FastPass certainly has changed the park experience, but I have mixed feelings about that. For most readers of MousePlanet, they do find it invaluable for their favorite rides.

I think I will warm up to it even more once they let you get several tickets at once, as opposed to just one or two.

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Q.

Mike writes: Al... I have just returned from my second trip to D-Land after having used your site to prepare for my adventures. Previous trips were before the internet existed so they did not benefit from your helpful tips. Keep up the good work!

My reason for writing is to take a look at what happens when attractions break down, while you are on them. I have found it very interesting to read about these experiences in your web site. We are so used to being thrilled without exception. We seldom stop to think what we will do when a ride fails. To think of a ride coming to a halt, cast members and engineers, running around, trying to calmly piece things together at D-Land, and as visitors sit with feet dangling, is difficult to believe. But this is what happened to me on 3-15-01 on the new Soaring California attraction.

On my second trip to Soaring, I positioned for a better seat, since my first one gave me distracting peripheral views. Every seat was full, and as the show began, when we were all about one foot off of the ground, flood lights came on, the seating harness game to a jerking halt, and music stopped. A recorded message announced, "ATTENTION PASSENGERS, TAKE OFF HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY DELAYED, PLEASE REMAIN SEATED UNTIL FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS."

A half dozen or so crew members scurried about. There was some audible communication between crew members at the control pedestal and what appeared to be a troubleshooter somewhere above and behind me, obviously in some kind of computer control room or projection room.

A crew member then announced for all passengers to remove their seatbelts but remain seated. We were all asked to repeat fastening and unbuckling a few times while crew continued to probe for the problem. Crew then approached a specific row of seats. At least 3, maybe 4, passengers were escorted out of the room. I do not know if they requested to leave, or if they were asked to leave. A crew member then proceeded to cover the vacated seats with restrictive "OUT OF ORDER" straps. We were all assured that the ride would be restarted.

After about 15 minutes, the system appeared to start over, like a PC re-booting. The seatbelt thing was very curious to me. I was very careful to see and hear all of what was going on. It gave me a little insight into how the attraction works. Do you have any details as to the technology of this attraction and how the seatbelts may be tied into keeping it from running? What failsafe features may have triggered its sudden stoppage? Also, I was wondering what your or reader's experiences are with being on rides during a failure?
 

A.

One of the things you don't see when you get seated for this attraction is that there is a small light above your seating position that only the Cast Member (CM) can see. This light indicates that you belt is fastened (when on). It's pretty similar to what is done for Star Tours (behind that little panel door the CM opens) if you ever noticed.

Since you are lifted pretty high up off the ground for the film - it is ultra important you remain strapped in. If strap fails, or a belt is jerked hard enough, the light goes out, and the attraction is e-stopped for your safety. So, yes - having a belt un-attach, for whatever reason, will shut it down.

The people leaving were probably told they would be given a ride on the next cycle of the attraction - since it appears that the safety system for their seats could not be made to work properly - hence the OUT OF ORDER signs.

This could be due to a variety of factors - from a failed circuit, too sensitive a sensor, or more likely a wiring glitch. This is a new attraction, so the bugs are still being worked out of it. Keep in mind here that as you are levered up to the screen, so are the wiring harnesses for the seatbelts and the mechanisms that make for the slight tilts and banks you experience. Anytime you subject wiring harnesses to movement, they can arrange themselves out of sockets and such, until they are all properly anchored down.

Ask Al™:

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

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

Not all questions may be responded to, but all will be read [as I always have in the past] so I can have an idea of what you all think out there.

Keep in mind all questions submitted to the Ask Al! column become property of this site. They may be edited for length or style and for a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site too.

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