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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 7/31/01 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.

Doug writes: Just wanted to let you know that there's an excellent act over at Club Buzz right now. I don't know if you've been over there after 7 in the past week and a half or so, but the group Barrage is simply amazing. It's an 11-piece band including 7 violins and 2 percussion sets.

Barrage Photography by Trudie Lee Photography Inc.
Barrage Photography by Trudie Lee Photography Inc.

They play nightly at 7, 8:30, and 10, and I believe they sell CDs from the Autopia shop after each performance. They're a serious improvement over some of the entertainment (musical entertainment, that is) that's been on the Club Buzz / Tomorrowland Terrace stage recently :).
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A.

Barrage Photography by Trudie Lee Photography Inc.
Barrage Photography by Trudie Lee Photography Inc.

This is about the tenth e-mail I've gotten about Barrage - and either they have an excellent press relations person, or they really are getting audiences excited. My guess (since this is a repeat visit for them) is that they may be very well worth catching. :)

Barrage Photography by Trudie Lee Photography Inc.
Barrage Photography by Trudie Lee Photography Inc.

For those of you who can't make it to the park (or out to Epcot where they also apparently make appearances) here's a LINK to their official website. There are more photos there - plus some sound clips so you can hear them.

Too bad they don't also play during the day, we could sure use a break from that Buzz show.  ;)

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Q.

Aaron writes Hey there, Long time reader, first time writer... Got a quick question and don't know who else to ask so hopefully you'll have time to answer. I am formerly of the Bay Area and take Disney Vacations once to twice a year at least. I am now in the Portland, Oregon area and am still finding myself there once or twice a year for a week.... BUT I used to use the Disney website as a way of checking the refurbishment schedule for rides so I could go at the best time when most of my favorite attractions are not closed.

I was wondering if you know why the Disney site does not have the refurbishment schedules on it now (used to be in the show times / hours section), and also if you know how I could find out what will be closed for refurbishment. I called the Disney number for guest services and they sent me back to the site.

I would appreciate any information and I want to say that I enjoy your updates very much and find them an irreplaceable source of info!!

 

A.

Thanks for the kind words Aaron. It appears that the company itself is having trouble getting any kind of schedule (a problem we also have).

There have been a LOT of changes in the rehab schedule, and my sources indicate there will be even more, as they stumble out of summer into the fall and winter season.

Seeing as they didn't even consider the whole west side of the park would be closed the first time they did a schedule (they had planned Mansion, Splash and the Bears to all go down at the same time at one point) it just seems they are very disorganized right now.

What I would suggest is keeping track of the regular DIG updates that I do, usually there I have the latest info on what is closing when, even if I don't always get it onto our schedule page.

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Q.

Doug kindly writes: Al, I thought that I would pass this article / link along since I did not see it in the news section.
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A.

Thank you Doug! I appreciate all the readers sending in links to stories or items they find I may have missed, that way we all benefit from the efforts. Please keep them coming.

In this one case, the article Doug had kindly sent in we already had a link to, from another newspaper that ran it a day earlier. What some folks may not know is that the L. A. Times is now partnered with the Orlando Sentinel on Disney news - and frequently run each other's stories on the company. Many times they run the same day, sometimes a day or so apart. Generally I only link to one, unless either paper has augmented the other's work. This saves the reader a bit of time I think, plus lets me hunt for other stories of interest.

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Q.

Jason writes: Hi Al, Part of the following is a response I sent to another site concerning a rumor of Knott's newest coaster attraction. The rumor stated that Knott's would build a hydraulically launched hypercoaster. Part of the email is off-topic, but partially reflects the lack of creativity in the Disney Corporation.

I have a couple of questions on this one. A hydraulic launched system? Why! I have studied physics, and I don't see any speed advantage to a hydraulic system over compressed air, or electromagnetic energy. I understand that Intamin enjoys developing launched systems, but reliability has been so so. If a high launch speed can't be maintained, or has continuous breakdowns (California Screaming, or the first year of Superman); a season may be wasted. (I am getting sick of the SFMM situation right now. Even though the current SFMM situation is not Intamin's fault, we need rides that work, when built!

Why does Knott's want to build a hypercoaster instead of a gigacoaster? I would assume that a hypercoaster in the Los Angeles area isn't going to increase attendance too much, since Magic Mountain has one. The park needs to use small footprints, originality, or break records to compete in this market. I understand that Knott's has the dilemma of being caught between a amusement park and theme park, but it would be nice to ride something nicely themed and thrilling at the same time. I also believe that this is their strongest advantage. I hope that Cedar Fair sees the potential, and doesn't turn Knott's into a MGM Grand Theme Park Adventure; which managed to combine the charisma of Six Flags with the thrill of Disneyland.

Unfortunately, both Disneyland and Knott's have failed with the fake boardwalk theme. Knott's failed first, Disney just followed along. I would never fly to Lyons, France to see a fake Eiffel Tower. Paris is just too nearby. And don't get me started about going to Zurich to see a fake Matterhorn. Disney just compounded the mistake by building a fake California (we are already there ... so much for the local market). The real Hollywood and beach are only a few mile away. DCA was Disney's chance to build a mini-Universal Studio's type of guide to Disney animation (something we never got to see). Unfortunately, with most of the talent leaving by the dump truck loads; I'm not sure if it would succeed. Tortillas anyone?

I wish I could blame Disney for their problems, but the stock market only looks at a few numbers. I'd like to say that money spent for the future, increases the likelihood of future success; but management is only looking myopically (can't see in front of them, let alone the future).

Innovation helps, but Disney, the former king of innovation has given up, so off to the shelf we go. Maybe, Disneyland can build Tilt-a-Whirl with a different Disney character on each car. BTW, Which Disney characters puke? I'll give 5 to 1 on the Cheshire Cat. Hairball that is.

Look forward to life, and invest in the future, for the fool thinks only of the present! Mr. Eisner should have enough money by now to retire with much comfort. I wish that he could recreate the spirit that saved Disney during the early 1980's, or give the reigns to someone who still believes the best product is one developed with: originality, creativity, distinction, purpose, and quality. Outside expertise is often needed. Intamin, Arrow Dynamics, and others have helped or designed ride systems in conjunction with Disney Imagineers. However, the scenery is best left to the talent that created the movie or concept on which the attraction is based.

I got my first Electrical Parade album at the age of four in 1973. I have great memories of Disneyland, as far back as I can remember. I hope that the train that Retlaw created, can get back on track. It was a simple dream of a "Carney" free place of amusement. Times change, but quality must be maintained or the company fails.

I am not worried about roller coasters, flat rides or alcohol at the park. I'm worried about selling a lackluster product under the Disney seal. It has been happening too much lately. If Mr. Eisner wants to blame it on "yes men"; I'll be happy to put in my opinions for free.
 

A.

First, thank you for sharing your note with me. I agree with you on quite a few points, mainly:

Yes, I'm also tired of parks experimenting with new coaster technology on my dime. Get the stuff working first, don't waste my limited time in a park with a highly hyped ride going down or not being available.

Yes, the off the shelf solution is not one I am interested in for the prices Disney charges.

And in particular, yes, get the park design back in the hands of people who know what they are doing.

I was thinking the other day why Disneyland still remains so enchanting after all these years, and California Adventure manages to disappoint thousands daily. It boils down to two reasons basically:

1. Mall / Real Estate developers are doing parks for Disney now, as opposed to the movie designers / craftspeople that Walt used -- the mall guys experience and aim is almost pure commerce, the movie guys were really using their skills to create fantasy.

2. One nameless person told me Walt also wanted yes men around him too, just like Eisner / Pressler do now. The difference is that Walt's ideas for the most part were brilliant, while Eisner / Pressler's are well...

... let's just leave it at that. ;)

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Q.

Mark writes: Al, I just finished reading your article on the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at Disneyland. I almost never respond to internet articles, but this time I think it's worth while. In your article, you wrote the following paragraph (responding to Abe):

"Al: You've read my stuff haven't you - I just want this place to be the showplace it used to be. I remember the first time I saw your show - I couldn't believe you weren't a real person. I also have vivid memories of freshly painted railings everywhere (they used to do heavy trafficked areas nightly)."

I've been a fan of the Disney theme parks since my first visit to Disneyland in 1969. I agree that it could have been called a showplace back then. I was astounded to see Mr. Lincoln talk - I was 8 years old, but I remember being completely blown away by the technology used for these shows. Pirates of the Caribbean was relatively new and was absolutely amazing. Disneyland was far beyond anyplace else I had ever seen, both in theme and technology. Your article is the first I've read that discusses it as a showplace - the same way I remember my first trips to the park.

I now live in Florida about one hour from the WDW resort and have an annual pass. I have watched while the competition has slowly caught up (Universal, in particular). The Disney parks that I visit today are no longer showplaces. They are simply very good theme parks - and very good entertainment. They are no longer astounding, leading edge places to visit.

I've seen a lot of discussion on various bulletin boards about whether Universal's IOA is better than the new attractions and projects that Disney has recently created. I'm sure that some people will like Universal better while others will not. That point is debatable. However, there was not a competitor that was even close for circa 1969 Disneyland. There could have been very little argument because Walt Disney was so far beyond his competitors that no place else could measure up.

I'd like to see Disneyland (and WDW) return to that showplace, from the little A-ticket attractions and small details to entire new theme parks and other projects. I like Disney the way it is now - good entertainment. I liked it much better back then - as a product leader that absolutely blew the competition away.

I think there are several issues with the Disney parks that should be addressed. I wondered if you would be interested in posting an article I am thinking about writing. The topic is that since the Disney parks are no longer managed by one man whose pride of ownership had to motivate his decisions - that in fact they are now a huge corporation whose main goal is immediate profit maximization - can it return to the showplace we remember? What would the philosophy have to be to accomplish both goals? Would it work?

Just wanted to know if you're interested. I don't have any formal training in writing and I've never been employed by Disney. However, I am very well read on the subject of Disney theme parks. I also have a business and technology background. I would certainly expect to create rough drafts to be reviewed and approved before posting the article. I will also need some time to write it.

Let me know what you think. Thanks for your efforts and your great website!
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A.

First, thank you for the kind words. And for such a thoughtful note.

I say go for it. I think it would make wonderful reading.  Don't worry so much about your writing experience, passion is what MousePlanet is really built on. :)

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Q.

Anonymous writes: Dear Al, I'm a reader of your updates and I share many of the same opinions you have about DCA. I'm writing because I just thought you might like to know (I don't know if you do or not) about a pathetic new scheme that Disney is using to advertise the park to little kids.

Available at the information stations in the Esplanade are little glossy flyers called "California KIDventures -- Big Thrills for Little Kids!" The flyer contains a list of "kiddie" attractions (ironically listing the Zephyr, which is inoperable most of the time) and a "KIDventure Conquest Card," which allows the kids to check off all of the attractions they have "conquered."

I really hate DCA and I think it's wrong that they're trying to lure young children into a park for grown-ups. I know that you have some of the same feelings (or at least I have that impression), so I thought you might find this anecdotal information somewhat interesting.?
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A.

Very interesting. It tells me that the executives are still not listening to the customers. Since this park has opened they've been telling the press that it is kid friendly, even though surveys (and my own feedback here) say it is not.

I always consider it trouble when a company insists their customers are wrong or misunderstanding something, instead of just simply listening to them.

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Q.

"M" writes: Hi Al, I know you get a lot of flack about your negative comments, so I though you might be interested in an email sent to me by a friend who lives in Modesto. She does not read MousePlanet, and I have never given her my opinion of DCA.

My son and his wife liked Ca. Adv. okay. It was an enjoyable time, but they won't be in a hurry to return. For my money, I think they should let you go between Ca. Adv. and Disneyland in one day. I love Disneyland, but I will think twice before I pay the same price as D.land to visit Ca. Adv. It just is not worth it. Maybe if you had younger kids and you wanted to just let them loose, it wouldn't be so bad. Pretty easy to keep track of everyone compared to D.land.

The only thing I really enjoyed was Soaring. I could ride that again and again. The roller coaster was okay, but I am not a big fan of coasters.. and the rest of the stuff is too contrived for me. It was interesting the first time through, but that's it.

D.land never gets old. D-land seems exciting while Ca. Adv. seems like a cheap side show. I have more fun every year at the State Fair for a lot less money, and the rides are pretty much the same. Most people I have talked to feel like-wise and the complaint is always that you pay to get in and then you are bored and can't go to D-land.

Any of this sound familiar? Thanks for speaking your mind, Al. I, for one, appreciate it.
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A.

Thank you for your kind note. You may not believe it, but I rarely get notes complaining about my opinions - at least in comparison to all the other e-mails I see that either agree or expand upon some of the things I discuss here.

The comments you passed on are pretty much the same ones I've seen coming in about this park from day one - visitors just do not want to return after an initial visit, which is bad news for the future of things there.

What really saddens me is hearing executives like Paul Pressler make excuses for the poor decisions they made, such as "We always have trouble when we open a new park." He should clarify that statement, as the troubles have all been pretty much on his watch.

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Q.

Steve writesAl, as a person who loves all the So. Cal. Amusement parks, I had to respond to this letter from your last update:

Heck they havent added a major attration since Indy but they are strides above anything Six Flags, Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farms.

I'd like to point out that, yes, while Disneyland is the best and always will be (hopefully), the other So. Cal. parks have added attractions in the years since Indy that are fantastic, while Disney has answered with very little.

"Ghost Rider" at Knott's is THE BEST wooden coaster ever created, bar-none. "Terminator 3-D" at Universal is one of the most elaborate, over-the-top and crowd-pleasing shows at any park in the world. Honestly, blow-for-blow, there is nothing that has been created for Disneyland or DCA in the past 6 years that can match either of those two attractions.

While "Innoventions" tragically occupies a huge portion of Tomorrowland and changes rarely, Universal's own "temp" area (near the front of the park where the Marvel Restaurant used to be) changes often, and usually drastically. "Chicken Run", "The Grinch" and "The Mummy" have all been occupied that space with unique (albeit simple) attractions that don't wear- out- their welcome. As well, they do a nice job of advertising the current movies in the park with attractions, something Disney has been hard-pressed to accomplish in the past 6 years
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A.

I bow to you sir, for hitting the nail on the head there. You are absolutely right.

And mind you, Disney's excuse will be "well, we were building a whole new park!" They will surely leave out the part about only one really great ride (Soarin), and a bunch of so-so ones (Screamin), and a lot of off the shelf stuff.

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Q.

Matthew writes: Al, as I was riding Soarin', that river scene looked awfully familiar to me. Asked a CM and what do you know, it's the American River near Sacramento. (I live within about an hour's drive of that very river.).
 

A.

Thank you for that, I know several readers were interested beyond just the note I quoted in the last update.

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Q.

Eric writes: Dear Mr. Lutz: I am confused about the management structure at the Disney company as described in articles on your site.

There are "suits" and there are Imagineers but there are no producers; the go-betweens twixt management and the artists. There seem to be no people who can tell management that if they spend only x dollars the "product" or show will be Junk.

Conversely, there seems to be no one to tell the artists that there are only xx dollars to work with and so they must come up with the best they can within these budget constraints. Of course this is one of the things Walt did.

Are they really trying to run this company without "producers"?

If Disney had not help write the book on excellence, we would not hold them to such high standards.
 

A.

First of all Eric, it's Al, not Mr. Lutz. ;)

There are "producers" at the company - the problem lies with their confusion as to what their jobs really are. Most producers at Disney nowadays (at least as far as the parks go, I do keep hearing the same grumbles at Feature Animation too) feel they must do everything they are told by the suits above, as opposed to trying to get the best visitor / audience experience out of the project.

Barry Braverman's supervision of California Adventure is the perfect example of what has gone so very wrong at Disney. Every whim the bosses came up with, from Eisner wanting a farm put in, to Pressler thinking the California theme was brilliant and then demanding more attention and money be spent on the shops / restaurants as opposed to the attractions, Barry just said "yes, sir!"

So sure, the guy gets promoted. They even gave him Disneyland and the new Hong Kong park. But, oy-vey - we get something that really never should have been built the way it was, leaving thousands of customers unhappy and not wanting to return on a daily basis.

The millions of dollars they are now burning through, in discounts, advertising, the emergency addition of all new entertainment and rushing of new attractions could have been so easily avoided if Braverman could have weeded out the dumb ideas. But then as I understand it, he himself may have suggested more than a few of those too...

But that's the way big fossilized companies like Disney work now. It's not about what will work best for the audience, it's about how much they can get away with and still get the premium pricing the brand can command. It's not about doing the best, it's about doing the least. In short, the whims of the boss, and the demands of the accountants are more important than what the customer has asked for, or expects.

No one expects perfection, all they really need to be doing is listening. That's the one thing them seem too busy pontificating or making excuses to do much of these days.


The following ten questions were posted on 7/11/01 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.

Chris writes: Not really a question, but a comment, and probably not quite appropriate for your column... but...

I've been an Annual Passholder about eight years now, and I have to say, I agree wholeheartedly with you that the resort in general has definitely lost something since I began coming so regularly. I have to admit the most recent bit of excitement they managed to generate is opening Indiana Jones and the Lion King Celebration. Ever since then, nothing has felt polished, not Tomorrowland '98, not any Disneyland parades, certainly not Light Magic and not DCA (nor anything in between).

Now don't get me wrong. I'm sure you wanted all of these things to be great. But your updates can simply be titled "Everything Wrong with Disney" these days. I hope our combined cynicism can be reversed, because I'm sure we'd all much rather be writing about how great the parks in Anaheim are than how poor they've become.

'Indy' and 'Lion King' gave me a sense of completion. While 'Indy' may have not had all of the wonderful concept show elements that Tony Baxter and company let us in on during the preceding years it was being built, it had enough of them. Some things were cut or left out, for whatever reason, but many of the show's elements, including of course the finale, really made you feel like you were riding along with Dr. Jones himself.

'Lion King' was just elegant. I'll be heading to WDW this summer and I plan to carefully note how it is changed in its current stage show form (as I understand it). I will try to keep an open mind, but friends say I'll be disappointed. I bet you were at the park the day of the last showings of this gem, and I'll just sum it up this way. I bet none of the hard-working and talented performers will have tears in their eyes as they perform the last "Parade of the Stars" or "Steps in Time". Take nothing away from the great cast of these shows. They work hard and deserve to be saluted for the performances they give. It's what they are given to work with that is the problem. And the emotional bond 'Lion King' had with its performers and fans was just the example of truly polished work.

Comparing that with recent failures, I for one will just mention the return of MSEP (let's face it, that's what it is). To me, this is simply a slap in the face. I know many people wanted MSEP to stick around forever, but I personally was looking forward to seeing something better. And Light Magic's 'features' were cut progressively with each new Annual Passholder newsletter or article in the O C Register. It went from a parade with low level pyro, laser, fiber optics, and what not... to a stage show with two poorly thought out stops (from a guest flow point of view) with no real point. I would have rather seen Disney give it another try (i.e. start all over), but instead they'll just pull MSEP, supposedly retired, ship it over to DCA, and try to convince me they aren't pulling a cheap stunt.

It's a cheap stunt. And that's what Disney has stooped to. (Notable exceptions here are 'Believe...' and 'Soarin''. I also have to add that I find Screamin' to be the only redeemable thing about Paradise Pier).

I don't mind if the Park changes. I just want it to get better when it does. We can all point to an O C Register article where Tony Baxter himself tells us how "tomorrowlike" the new Autopia would be. Then we get a paint job and a waste of real estate combining the two tracks together. No wonder he doesn't say anything anymore. He's probably tired of putting his foot in his mouth after he sees what Disney refuses to spend to make magical attractions.
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A.

Chris, first thanks for taking the time to write all that out. I wanted to run it here, especially after we just ran David Koenig's excellent piece yesterday about the quality problems the Disney Company is now having.

In dealing with the increasing number of press inquiries we are getting, it is clearly apparent that it's no longer just this website who is asking questions about the obvious decline in quality we are seeing - not only at the parks, but in the other areas the company deals with.

Let's hope they get the message soon.  I like Disney product, I just don't like how it is being put together now. I honestly don't feel they value my patronage.

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Q.

Jeff writes I have just one simple question, now that Rocket Rods is closed, what will become of the site? What will the next ride be, it can only be more exciting than Rocket Rods!
 

A.

Right now nothing is scheduled - as we showed in David Koenig's column yesterday, the sign is down and a lone Rod is now over at DCA as a prop:

The Rocket Rods slow march into history continued this summer - last week the sign was removed from the Tomorrowland building (above) and a lone Rod was salvaged and installed as a prop near the Hollywood & Dine buffeteria in California Adventure (below).

The Buzz Lightyear shoot 'em up ride is now on hold - and several other concepts, including one where the building's entrance is moved over to Matterhorn way so they can put in a Little Mermaid attraction, are kaput.

Consider the former CircleVision building to be Pressler's tribute to the closed Carousel of Progress / America Sings building of 80's Tomorrowland I guess.  ;)  Let's just hope it doesn't sit closed for ten years like America Sings did.

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Q.

Craig writes: Hey Al, always enjoy reading everything on the MousePlanet, etc.

Just got a flyer at work promoting the Disney Institute Business Programs. After reading the news and your website, it's pretty funny (in a sad way) the planned itinerary (a sample below):

  • Hire, train, and retain motivated employees
  • Generate maximum loyalty from employees and customers
  • Encourage creativity and innovation

Three day programs starting at $2,995.00

Disney certainly does some things right, but it's a large pill to swallow having them teach employee motivation.

Just thought you'd find it interesting. Keep up the good work.
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A.

Thanks for the kind words Craig.

I have to admit, that one is rich. ;)

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Q.

Gary writes: Al, I've been an avid reader for years, since the original DIG site. You do a fantastic job.

I was in our local Bakersfield CA Pic-N-Save store yesterday and was shocked to see Atlantis toys already on the shelves while the movie is still in wide release. They were the same action figures and vehicles being sold down the street at Target only priced to move. I guess nobody wants this stuff.

Also a couple of weeks ago the family was in Anaheim and decided to check out Downtown Disney, it was a fun way to spend the couple of hours we had and decided to cap it off with a revisit to Goofy's Kitchen. What a let down.

After haggling with the cashier that my 10 year daughter was honestly 10, I then shelled out over $120 for a family of 4, of course they calculated in a gratuity. The hostess was rude when I asked to be seated where the lighting was better and most of the characters were B list, a couple of which my daughters were having a hard time placing the movie they were in. All this for a Vegas style buffet with a better selection of salad bar items even at Carl's Jr. Never again. What a rip off!

Keep up the good work Al!
 

A.

Thanks for the kind words Gary - MousePlanet is truly a team effort, we have lots of folks working hard daily to put together fresh new content for you. I know they appreciate your thanks.

I also find it amazing the Atlantis stuff got dumped so quickly - but if you take a closer look at the rest of the Pic N Save shelves, you'll see LOTS of Disney products in increasing numbers there. I do understand that Mattel in particular does manufacturing runs for them on some items (you can tell by the factory- attached Pic N Save price stickers on the boxes) - but I don't think Atlantis is one of those lines.

I was sorry to hear about Goofy's Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel - it's never been one of my favorites (too expensive, not enough selection), but I always had a quality interaction with the characters there. The haggling over the kid's price - especially in light of what you were already spending seems just dumb though.

Sadly I think you are only going to see more of this as profits continue to get squeezed during this slowdown. Eisner needs his bonus you know.

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Q.

Kyle writes: Al, in your recent update, you mentioned a couple of things that I felt needed a reply to.

You mentioned that the McDonald's Atlantis Happy Meal toys weren't drawing collectors. All except one, that is - the light-up Atlantean crystal seems to be very popular. In fact, you'll find a few people selling them on E-bay.

You know, one would think that this would be the first Atlantis toy that would wind up in the Disney Stores and in Disneyland. Of course, you can't expect to find anything in Disney Stores now- a- days (all of the Atlantis clothing in our local store was toddler sized - and lets not even get into the fact that they decided not to make any clothing suitable for girls).

The other thing is, understandably, a minor quibble about grammar. By saying that Paul Pressler could care (or know) less indicates that he has at least some level of caring or knowledge. By saying he couldn't care (or know) less delivers the impression that he is indeed at the lowest level of caring or
knowledge.

What can I say for myself? My mother was a teacher... :) Keep up the good work, dude!
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A.

Thanks for the corrections Kyle - I appreciate them.

By the way, for all of you who wrote in asking about the Wallace & Gromit toys, I haven't been able to find out if Carl's plans to offer them via mail order.  My suggestion is for you to keep checking their site just in case.

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Q.

Roy writes: Hey Al, love your column as always. I'm writing due to a rumor I heard trickle down to my ears on a last visit to a Disney Store.

An ex employee of the store now works at Disneyland, and told the people at the store that in conjunction with tearing down Country Bear, they are renaming Critter Country to 100 Acre Woods in tribute to the new Winnie The Pooh ride. Is their any truth to this?
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A.

If they did that, they'd have to redo Splash Mountain I would think - as it would no longer fit in with the theme. Unless we get a Pooh Mountain too...  ;)

My guess is that the area around the Pooh ride (which budgets seem to be getting slashed on left and right every day it seems) will get that name, but not the land itself.

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Q.

Vincent writes: Good morning Al, I read your stuff often, and hopefully so do the big wigs under the Eisner regime. My question is this:

As an east coast native, and a more than frequent traveler to Lake Buena Vista, FL, I've started checking out Anaheim and DL in late 1998. I've been back several times, and have booked a trip for my birthday at the end of August 2001.

After all the stuff I've been reading, I'm wondering if I ought to go? I'm a big fan of Disney, and they may help and may hinder my experience.

What do you advise? I'm a little burned out on WDW, and don't have the desire right now to schlep out to Paris or Tokyo.!)
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A.

I think they still do a lot more right at Disneyland than they do wrong Vincent. My concerns are that the balance never seems to go the right direction lately under the current mindset.

I strongly feel there's enough to see and do now with both parks, and the parkhopper (for you out of towners) and the local's discount (for So. Cal. visitors) makes DCA much more attractive for the visitor now. It sort of takes the arrogance of the original pricing out of it, if you know what I mean.

If for DCA they hadn't increased the area entertainment, added the Electrical Parade, and offered a better value for your dollar (via the hoppers and discounts), then I probably would have advised you to hold off for Tokyo's new park. (And as always, Disneyland itself is still a marvel, despite needing some tender loving care right now.)

-

Q.

Mark writesAl, After hearing a description of what's going on inside the new Mr. Lincoln show, I cannot wait to read your review. It "sounds" crazy!
-

A.

I was initially concerned about the changes also Mark - but the advance word is filtering out good on this one. Hopefully we'll be able to see just what they are up to very soon.

Who'd have thunk headsets would save this show?  ;)

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Q.

Matt writes: Al, What happened to Tony Baxter? I recently saw something that suggested that he was on the way out of Imagineering. Did he get the axe too? If so, the dream is truly dead.
 

A.

Think more along the lines of put out to pasture. I keep promising everyone (via the updates) that there is a story behind all this - and hopefully soon I can tell it. Some care needs to be taken though, as a lot of damage has already been done.

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Q.

Eric writes: I enjoy your articles and find them quite interesting and informative. However, if I want political commentary, I like to look elsewhere. Your barb at President Bush in the new Splash Mountain story was not only cheap, baseless, and out of the blue, it committed the cardinal writer’s sin for such a comment. It wasn’t funny or even clever. Surely you can be funny without political cheap shots.

Keep up the good work, but give the apparent anger and resentment about the election for your therapist.

Jason also writes: Dear Al, I have read MousePlanet for about 3 years now, and love it. You obviously care about the parks and realize that corporate America is destroying MOST of the best parts of America in search of profits by taking advantage of the fact that most people are too stupid to notice slow, calculated cheapening of product.

But, I was shocked to see the following in your recent update: "Finally, after the River water was declared "safe to drink" by the state of California, (um, yes that muck with all that duck poo is considered safe, must be Dubya at work again.)

I believe that this liberal political slant is totally out of place at MousePlanet. Anyway, you said the STATE declared it safe. Last I checked, President Bush is not the Governor of California. And, he has absolutely no responsibility for drinking water, or the fact that California thinks their electrical needs are never ever going to increase, and have as a result, ran out of electricity.

My guess would be that if you removed the duck poo, you would somehow be threatening the survival of those ducks, and we all know that in California, humans are the LEAST respected inhabitants of the state. :)

Keep up the great work as a watchdog of Disney. But I sure don't need to hear another California liberal ranting about President Bush.
 

A.

Hoo boy guys - and folks, those were the ones I could print here.

I'll make a deal with you both (and all the other Dubya fans) who wrote in.

Spend just one TENTH of all that energy you exerted in writing to me to let the Walt Disney Company know they need to get back on the quality track, and I'll lay off the Bush gags.

I promise. :)


The following ten questions were posted on 6/26/01 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.

"TG" writes: Hey Al, Regarding the question why Disneyland was so crowded last week (in your last update) - Thursday was the last day to go for So. Cal. APers before the big summer blackout. My wife went on Tuesday and said the crowds were the largest she has seen in quite a while.

Also, about DCA... I went there Friday night with my two oldest boys. We decided to try this Junior Explorer map thing that they hand out to the kids. Anyway, we got the last sticker at 10pm right as the park was closing. Imagine our surprise when we found that the Engine-Ears Toy shop (the place where you turn in the maps) was already closed for the night! The boys were upset, but I told them we would bring the maps back another time.

What ever happened to keeping shops open an hour after closing (especially at the entrance) to try and get the last minute sales?
--

A.

Thanks for the update on the attendance pattern - I'd be curious to see where the numbers for the new park go, now that the lower priced passes are all blacked out for most days. So far (and yes, it's a bit too early) the discount hasn't yet brought in huge crowds.

The shops sales have been so poor at the DCA that they have been closing many of them early, not only at the exit, but throughout the park. Adrienne Vincent Phoenix has been covering the many changes going on in the DCA shops as they revamp the merchandise mixes in order to goose sales.

My take on it is that they did manage to do the merchandising rather well at this park - but the lower attendance numbers won't help, no matter how well and nicely the shops are stocked.

-

Q.

John writes Hi Al - Great site! I'm a huge Disney fan and have visited your site for a few years now. I have planned a family vacation to Disneyland Resort from 6/30 - 7/3. We are going to Disneyland for two days and DCA for one day. I went to a Preview Day back in January and I wonder if I'm one of the few people making a 2nd trip!

Anyway, do you have Disney's attendance estimates for this weekend? I'm trying to figure out when to go to each park. Of course my main concern is to go to Disneyland on a 'less' busy day.... if that's possible.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

 

A.

John, thanks for the kind note.

No one, not even Disney, has any idea what the attendance estimates will be for DCA - this is definitely a time where they are finding out, what with the new locals discount and such. Disneyland at that time will probably be pulling in 50,000 plus - most likely more. Keep in mind the following very general rules: Disneyland's busiest day is Saturday, DCA's Sunday.

The good thing about your visit is that you will probably have a multi-day ticket - which will allow you to park hop. As we've been finding out with the annual passes - if Disneyland proves too crowded, we just hop over to the quieter DCA for a break. Rather than plan two days in one park, and one in the other - why not just play it by ear instead and do one when the other proves too crowded / too much / too boring?

The absolute best time of any day to visit either park and get on rides is early, so try and be there at opening each day. (Many people do not start their park day until 11 AM.) Use Fastpass later on in the day, around lunch time, then dinner, so you can dine and relax, and then hit a key attraction afterwards.

Use the busier afternoons when it is hot and lines are longer, to do the less crowded movies (of which DCA has so many) like Muppets, Bugs, Golden Dreams, Mondavi's Season of the Vine, the Animation building movies, etc. Over at Disneyland plan the hot and crowded afternoons to go shopping, visit Tom Sawyer Island, see a parade or catch "Honey I Shrunk."

The ability to park hop will improve your visit - its one good change the resort has made that truly benefits the visitor of both parks.

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Q.

Norm writes: Hi Al, Thank you so much for a great site and, in particular, your Ask Al, and DIG columns. Say, I have a few neato ideas for DCA.

1. Instead of pulling the electrical parade out of mothballs, they should create some brand new nighttime parade with new light effects and some unique, catchy music to it. This would allow guests to create DCA memories instead of trying to get guests to remember Disneyland memories in a park short on things to remember.

2. They should extend the California Resident Discount indefinitely, until locals begin to take to the park and accept it as part of the Disney Resort. They may lose $10.00 a guest but think of the money they'd make with them getting into the park.

3. Tower of Terror I think is a great idea, as is the idea of making it a hotel that guests actually stay in. I mean how cool would that be (and think of the money they'd make) having a totally immersive experience, unrivaled in the hotel resort industry. C'mon That'd Be COOL!

4. More family stuff - Universal opened their Nickelodeon Blast Zone, which has the foam ball place and a water play ground. Well, to spruce up that silly Bountiful Valley Farm area here's my pitch. Mickey's Barn Yard- a huge Barn inside of which youngsters can climb all around while throwing, shooting and playing with oranges (foam balls) that were harvested from the surrounding groves. Also expand the Irrigation Station play area, perhaps even with one of those huge buckets that Universal just got.

5. Take out that Redwood Recreation area and make a dark ride about the Country bears that would wander in and around their caverns.

6. Add a tunnel of love or funhouse or dark ride or all three to the Paradise Pier area.
-

A.

Interesting ideas there Norm - let me comment on them:

1. ...they should create some brand new nighttime parade with new light effects and some unique, catchy music to it. This would allow guests to create DCA memories instead of trying to get guests to remember Disneyland memories in a park short on things to remember...

They did create a new parade! Sadly the Eureka parade didn't quite meet up to the task. It really wouldn't have hurt them to also light that parade up for nighttime performances with an Electrical Parade type of concept - but the budget thing got in the way there it seems.

2. They should extend the California Resident Discount indefinitely, until locals begin to take to the park and accept it as part of the Disney Resort. They may lose $10.00 a guest but think of the money they'd make with them getting into the park.

They may actually have to continue to discount, if the numbers don't come up significantly. I always thought the best way to deal with this was to just make the new park a $20 add on to a Disneyland ticket. This would make sense to a visitor - and open up that huge crowd they already have across the way to the new park. This is just Pressler being stubborn I think.

3. Tower of Terror I think is a great idea, as is the idea of making it a hotel that guests actually stay in. I mean how cool would that be (and think of the money they'd make) having a totally immersive experience, unrivaled in the hotel resort industry. C'mon That'd Be COOL!

As you probably read yesterday, the Tower is on the way. But again, that budget thing prevents us from getting an adjacent hotel to it. Gotta remember something here Norm, it's not about quality or creativity under Mr. Pressler, it's about numbers. He's not a showman, he's a shopkeeper.

4. More family stuff - Universal opened their Nickelodeon Blast Zone, which has the foam ball place and a water play ground. Well, to spruce up that silly Bountiful Valley Farm area here's my pitch. Mickey's Barn Yard- a huge Barn inside of which youngsters can climb all around while throwing, shooting and playing with oranges (foam balls) that were harvested from the surrounding groves. Also expand the Irrigation Station play area, perhaps even with one of those huge buckets that Universal just got.

Keep an eye on the update here for further news about this area.

5. Take out that Redwood Recreation area and make a dark ride about the Country bears that would wander in and around their caverns.

I think if the Country Bears movie does well, we'll see Wendell and the gang pop back up at the resort somewhere - the Bear raft ride would also tie in nicely to this.

I do like the Redwood Creek area - there are so few things for kids to do in that park right now, I would hate to see it go. It's kind of a sad comment on the whole park though that the simplest thing, the tire swing, is more satisfying than anything in the entire Paradise Pier area.

6. Add a tunnel of love or funhouse or dark ride or all three to the Paradise Pier area.

I'd just tear Paradise Pier down and start over. I think it is the single biggest factor in the lack of attendance. People look at these carnival rides in the relentless advertising and see nothing there that is unique or Disney. It's stuff you can find at Knott's, Six Flags or the local KMart parking lot.

Showing so much of this area in the ads are just reinforcing the message that it's a park not worth the premium pricing they naturally expect to be charged from Disney.

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Q.

Andrew writes: Great website!  Although it's kinda depressing, it nevertheless gets the word out about the Walt Disney Company. Your "Executive Spin" article was one of
your best.

I'm not sure if you've ever seen this website Write Disney!, but it gives addresses for top Disney Execs.  

Have you ever sent your articles to the company directly?  I think you should, direct to Eisner and Pressler. Anyways, just a thought. Keep up the good work!!
 

A.

I get a LOT of requests from folks about writing the company, so mentioning this terrific page again is a good idea.

The WDW Blues site I really have a fondness for, Parrothead who runs it is a great guy to take on the documentation of what is happening on the other coast. He really is on top of the problems there. It's nice to know other folks also care.

As far as sending any articles to Disney, well, I think they pretty much know what is going on here. ;)

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Q.

Jim writes: If you're interested, (former Disney) Supervising Animator David Pruiksma posted this message on the Motley Fool message boards. An avid MousePlanet reader in Stockton, CA.
-

A.

Wow, that was strong stuff. Well worth a read folks, stop by and read what he has to say. I find it interesting he is especially unhappy with the "theater crowd." That was news to me.

David (who is famous for animating Chip in "Beauty and the Beast," among other things) has been quite vocal about Disney lately - this is the second time he's gone public with how he feels (the first was in a note sent to fellow animators, which was quoted in the L.A. Times).

He tends to repeat what I hear from other folks within the animation buildings at Disney - that the company seems to be too worried about the revenues, and that is really interfering with the creation / creative muse behind the product.

They used to make the movies first, then find a way to sell them. At Disney it now seems (and yes, even Katzenberg was guilty of it with Hercules) that they worry about the merchandising first, then build the movie around it.

It's not the same company anymore that gave us Beauty and the Beast, Atlantis was ample proof of that. (Emperor's New Groove and Tarzan being the exceptions.)

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Q.

Luis writes: I enjoy reading your column. I find it both informative and entertaining.

However, I do have one question: how come some of the DCA oriented news items are posted in the DIG but not the DCA? I think a note on proposed attractions such as "Millionaire" and "Tower of Terror" would seem appropriate in the DCA column.
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A.

We're still working on the final form of the DCA section - since the park keeps changing so much in tone and style. We'd like to see more of what they have planned in the next few weeks before we lock the guide down.

That said - moving the DCA stuff to another column could be a possibility - but my guess here is most folks do see the entire resort as one big story. Many of the items I cover tend to entwine the two parks also.

-

Q.

Bob writes: First time writer here, I enjoy your page and check in almost everyday. Just wanted to get your feedback on something.

I recently visited the Wet & Wild park here in Las Vegas. I learned that this is the last year for the park. Our family has visited the Disney water parks in Florida and would love to see one out here. What do you think the chances of that happening out here are? (Help us here in Las Vegas. Its Hot!!!!)

I think it would do well, even if people had to drive 20 or 30 miles to get to a Disney park they would here. I know they are buried with DCA now but I hope that someday they can get through it and consider other options. (Wet and Wild is owned by the Sahara hotel which wants to expand using the water park land!)
-

A.

Thanks for the kind words Bob. I'm sorry to hear the Sahara is closing Wet & Wild - it's one less family option in the city.

As you probably know - Las Vegas went through a recent huge family phase, where all the resorts / casinos added all sorts of kid friendly attractions in an attempt to cater to that market.

What they found out was, after a lot of expansion was done and money was spent, that they were pulling in the Barney crowd, but that this demographic didn't really add to the bottom line. Las Vegas has been, and remains an adult oriented gaming Mecca. (You can even see the new Bally's ads that hark back to the old Las Vegas style, and comment that's what you wanted when you go there.)

What happened after it all didn't pan out is that then everyone pulled back from the family concept, all while the actual city of Las Vegas itself expanded with young families. The city is getting to a point where a family oriented entertainment complex / theme park would probably make sense - it could also benefit from some (but not all) the current tourism going on also.

The problems with building anything in Las Vegas are pretty simple - the income a casino or gaming concern can bring in would most likely dwarf what a normal family oriented business would be able to bring in. If you were an investor building anything out there, you'd probably seek the higher returns a casino would bring in, as opposed to a water park.

Disney has been interested in local theme parks for a long time to try and boost revenues (California Adventure [DCA] was a concept that from its roots was designed to be cloned in other states.) Paul Pressler would love to do the Six Flags thing of having smaller regional parks.

But I tend to think Disney's incredible appeal is precisely because it isn't just everywhere - going to Orlando or Anaheim is a special visit that people tend to save up for, allowing Disney to command premium pricing. (You know the laws of supply and demand - make it scarce, it gets expensive.) I don't think Mr. Pressler would do the Disney brand any good by building DCA parks all over the place - we won't even get into the lowered quality of these parks either, considering how DCA turned out.

That said though, it seems like Six Flags or Cedar Fair may be missing an opportunity in Las Vegas. With some kind of an indoor brand name park, and an adjacent water park (both companies have already built water parks in other areas) it would make sense. The city's family base is building, the tourists keep coming.

-

Q.

Allen writesHi, Al. Thank you ever so much for your informative articles on the tribulations of DCA. Keep it up.

Well it's summer and time to decide where to spend our family 4th of July 5- day weekend vacation. Let's see. We could travel 50 miles to go to DCA for $66 and have our two kids be very very bored amid the carnival rides and the great Anaheim Convention center in the background.

OR....

We could travel 350 miles to go to the brand new Bonfante Gardens theme park in Gilroy, California and have our two kids go WOW! amid beautifully landscaped gardens, waterfalls, real forests, circus trees, green mountains, monorails, trains, roller coasters, and lots of kids rides for $98.

Would I be willing to spend an extra $32 and drive an extra 300 miles for a green park than a steel (steal) one? I WOULD. (You can visit their web site.)

We plan to spend the day there on July 6th. I will give you a report upon my return. Maybe I can send you some photos too? Maybe a special edition MousePlanet review of Bonfante Gardens?
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A.

I've heard some really nice things about this new park from other folks online. I think the MousePlanet readership would love an illustrated trip report if you would like to take the time to write it up.

If anyone else has a visit to this new park planned in the near future - feel free to also send in your review. Who knows - maybe we can create a section on it, if the reports warrant it.

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Q.

Scott writes: After numerous visits to Disneyland, one under whelming trip to DCA and reading about The Disneyland Resort, I've began to notice that Disney's imagination is disappearing in Eisner and Pressler's penny pinching campaign.

I've come to notice Disneyland is changing hardly at all. On "Star Tours" at the start, we always go left and pass Endor. Across the path, there's a swimming pool with clams, sea weed, and a decomposing submarine track. Above, the revving engines of "Rocket Rods" kept Tomorrowland sounding like tomorrow, until its vehicles were ironically placed in a dumpster behind the McDonald's on Harbor Blvd.

Not only Tomorrowland suffers. Frontierland is limited to Big Thunder Mountain and a steam boat that passes the same once flaming cabin and little girls getting their fingers cut off by a play gun. Any way, ToonTown is really getting boring. No Roger Rabbit and a 50 second "roller coaster."

Across the entrance plaza in DCA, I don't know where to begin. In Hollywood, one sorry excuse for a ride?! The Muppet thing was fun, once. What they need is Tower of Terror like at Disney World. One more E-Ticket quality ride please that's all I want! I hope my letter reaches you.
 

A.

Looks like you are getting your wish granted for Tower of Terror - but one ride isn't going to fix the serious problems the new park has.

As far as changes in Disneyland - Tomorrowland in particular really needs to be seriously revamped yet again. It's always been the one land that has always suffered - even Walt had trouble with it.

Be careful what you ask for though - I'm not so sure we should be asking for any major Disneyland changes while Eisner and Pressler are in charge. With their current mindset - anything new would be of poorer quality than what it would replace.

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Q.

David writes: Just wondering if there's been any talk about moving the recently closed TimeKeeper from WDW into the now- abandoned Disneyland Rocket Rods queue...

Seems like a (relatively) cheap, quick fix that would add an all- new attraction (one- of- a- kind in the states!) to Tomorrowland. It might keep that space occupied until they're finally ready to add a Buzz Lightyear attraction... (And they'd have something new to promote!).
 

A.

Great idea David - but one thing stands in the way. Paul Pressler utterly detests the show. He hates it so much, he did as little as he could to promote it while it was at Walt Disney World, and let it die its slow death.

I really enjoyed it when I caught it a few years ago - and granted, it's yet another movie (which Pressler does like overall, since they cost less than actual rides) - but it had heart and a wonderful very creative premise. I think every kid sort of wishes they could bring someone back from the past to see the future.

Maybe if they could find a way to make it seem that putting TimeKeeper in here would save him some money...  ;)


The following ten questions were posted on 6/19/01 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.

"CD" writes: Hi Al, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your very informative (update) article entitled "If it's good enough for Six Flags." It is the very things in your article that have really tainted my longtime admiration for Disney and their American theme parks.

I am a design student at the California Institute of the Arts, the art school founded by Walt. It has been my goal for as long as I can remember to be a part of the creative team that found the perfect amalgamation of fantasy, theming, story, and technology that I saw growing up at Walt Disney World and Epcot. I would lay in bed at night just thinking about the feeling I got when I stood on Main Street and looked up at the castle. I needed to be a part of that to creatively fulfill myself.

As I got older, I eventually began to work for Disney on the college program in attractions and later on in Guest Relations. I even did some on-the-side theme park classes with Imagineers. When I was accepted into Cal Arts, I thought for sure this would be my stepping stone into WDI.

But as time went on (more specifically, as I began to see what the Disney theme parks were turning into), it really didn't become all that important to me anymore, and that scared me. Here was something that I had loved my entire life suddenly becoming so cheap, so banal. Attractions that I had replayed in my mind over and over now had fading paint, visible filth, and no signs of upkeep. New attractions "developed" were devoid of story or content or simply pulled out of an amusement park order-by-mail catalogue.

Whereas I once would get frustrated when WDI would not review my portfolio, I came to realize for my own artistic fulfillment that the creativity at Disney is unfunded and therefore dying, and that it behooves me as a student designer to, shall we say, avoid the sinking ship.

I, too, have been to Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris and sit in awe that we as Americans have less pride in our own Disney heritage than those we have shared it with. Tokyo Disneyland is truly the Disney World of my youth twenty years ago. Neat. Clean. Efficient. Colorful. And from what I have seen of Disney Sea, simply amazing. Obviously foreign investors are more shrewd when it comes to Disney. They know that they need to spend money to make money, and the final product will be more enjoyable for all parties involved. Eisner and Pressler, unfortunately, are of the mindset that "if we build it, they will come." Obviously, they were wrong.

Even though I will continue to go to the parks, the magic is almost depleted. But as Eisner and Pressler would say, I am but one person, and I do not speak for the masses. I am but one Disney fan who has taken pleasure with their product my entire life and as soon as I demand too much quality from them, someone new will come along and buy into their "new and improved" streamlined Disney 2000 model. Out of my respect for the Disney heritage, I hope once again that they are proved wrong.
--

A.

Thanks for your kind and heartfelt note CD. Sadly, more and more companies are doing things like Disney does now - it's heartbreaking to see quality dumped out the window for the short term profit.

I used to work for a major recording label, and saw the same thing happen while I was working there. Up until the new mindset hit we all worked very hard on keeping the quality up - and building a wonderful catalog of recordings. We did this because we knew hits came and went, but what really kept the money coming in was the quality catalog we had built so carefully. We could always count on classic titles to sell month after month, and pay our basic nut - so we could continue to carefully add to the catalog.

New management came in, and the first thing they did was slash all the catalog prices to generate more sales. Well, of course big profits happened - and we had a short time burst of catalog sales. But low and behold - within six months - the sales reverted back down to their former levels, and guess what? - we were making exactly half of what we were before the short term solution was put into effect.

Currently Disney is being run only for the short term. The presentation I saw made that very clear now - if their actions already didn't. I think the customers see this very clearly - if the honchos now in place do not.

-

Q.

Vince writes Just wanted to let you know that I've been reading Mouse Planet for two years now and enjoy it a lot - you and the whole team are doing a great job.

As a aspiring theme park executive, I can honestly say that reading your updates is providing me with the best education in the world. Thanks to Eisner and Pressler, I now know exactly how NOT to run a theme park or entertainment company.

Keep up the great work @ inside info & reports!

Chuck also writes I have been reading your essays about Disneyland long before the days of MousePlanet, and have written you in the past with varied questions, and have even seen some of them answered at your site.

I just wanted to say thank you for all of your hard work. To put my money where my mouth is I just paid a visit to your Amazon.com payment site and left you a small gift. Like any
subscription, I intend to keep this one active.

 

A.

Thanks for the kind compliments Vince & Chuck - the MousePlanet team is just terrific. They truly do care about the quality visitors would expect of the Disney brand.

And special thanks Chuck for the contribution! We have been amazed and delighted with how people have responded. It means a lot to the whole team.

-

Q.

Stew writes: What with all the cutbacks, lack of maintenance, and other great things we read about in the DIG..... I have one simple question for you. Is Disneyland Safe (anymore)?

I would never have even given it a second thought in the past, however, now between all the cutbacks in maintenance, repair, upgrade(s), rehab(s), etc. Plus, the ever increasing numbers of incidents that we hear about (note -- these are not just Disney --- but industrywide)....

Is Disneyland a SAFE place to take a family to anymore????
-

A.

Honestly Stew - yes. I generally still feel safer at Disneyland than I do a few other places. Operationally - the bare bone basics still seem to be attended to. (Even with the occasional boat sinking in Pirates, or drug tweaked CM at Space Mt.)

But you have to wonder how many other people see the decline in upkeep and ask the questions you do. Judging from my e-mail, I tend to think it's a lot of them.

-

Q.

Andrew writes: Hey Al! I just started reading your column and now I am a regular. Now see if you can help me... I recently visited Disneyland, late April, (forget DCA) and was disappointed when the Space Mountain soundtrack wasn't working. We experienced a breakdown and were allowed to ride again.

In the meantime, I asked one of the Cast Members at the loading dock just what was going on with the soundtrack. He told me: "All the speakers are broken. Why haven't we repaired them? Well, because we're getting new rockets in about a month, complete with stereo speakers."

Do you know anything about this? Does David Koenig know anything? I'd like to know!
 

A.

Seeing that they just installed an exit show (for the photos they now sell) that shows the old rockets - I would highly doubt they would replace them. (David, you can speak up here if you know otherwise.) One look at the entrance queue (with huge walls of paint peeling) tells me they have nothing planned to upgrade this ride, other than the recent money making ride photo installation.

Usually Cast Members working the attractions are the last folks I would ask about anything having to do with the ride - the poor folks are subject to some of the worst rumor mills anywhere. (Too bad the honchos think they are where we get our info from. ;) )

The problems with the sound go back to when it was originally installed, from what I was told. There was a cheap way to do it, and an expensive one. The cheap way wasn't proven, the expensive one was. Guess which one they choose? And guess how much it has cost them since then to try and fix it?  ;)

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Q.

Rori writes: I enjoy keeping up with Disney park news at MousePlanet, but unfortunately I must ask:

Why have all the news and updates been so downbeat lately? Everyone treats the current state of the parks and films (I read Sue's "Atlantis" review - I'm sorry, but I enjoyed it far more than the last few non-Pixar animations from Disney; I'm disappointed that you didn't enjoy it) so coldly so much of the time, and you do seem to have justification. But it seems like no one ever points out the good news coming from the company - they don't seem to appreciate it when they do something right. They have no optimism that a few years can change a lot of things.

Is Disney just dying a slow, painful death? Or is everyone just too obsessed with the problems to look on the bright side? Thank you for your time.
-

A.

I understand where you are coming from - but I have another question to ask you in return - should all news be only good news for you to read it?

I think you do understand news, is well news. Some sites only want to focus on the upbeat stuff - but we've found the greater readership does want to hear both the good and bad. And I do feel strongly that's why the site has had such tremendous exposure in the mainstream media - since we pretty much try to call it as it is.

In the case of Atlantis - MousePlanet did have two reviews - a positive one from our young Magic Years columnist Jewel - as well as the mixed one from Sue Kruse that you mentioned. (You may have just missed Jewel's column - we had five new items up on line that day, instead of our regular three.)

I saw Atlantis later on and noted in the update that I was disappointed with it - but didn't really dwell on it. (Actually I was quite pleased with the Atlantis Experience next door at the El Capitan, and wondered why Disneyland didn't get this installation instead.) I do understand some folks enjoy the movie - but that will be true of any entertainment offering, it will have both fans and detractors. The key is to try and get more of the former and less than the latter.

I do think we've complimented a lot of things here on the site - in my case on Disneyland proper I can remember raving about the Mulan Parade, the new Believe fireworks (we even have an extensive guide on how to best see it) and a few portions of the new California Adventure park. (In particular the theming of the Raft ride and Hollywood Backlot areas. Not to mention how I love their caramel corn... ;) )

But if the bad seems to outweigh the good sometimes - keep in mind we just review what we see. If the company does a great job - we'll let you know. But it would be a disservice to our readers to say good things about a poor offering. Our readers and the value they get for their dollar are our major concern. Since it seems that the Disney company has sort of lost its way a bit - we'll be noting that as well as when they get back on the path (hopefully).

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Q.

Brian writes: Fantastic job as usual on this week's DIG Update. All I can say is, as a stock holder, it's time. It's time to let Michael Eisner go. Everything Disney stands for is not only in jeopardy, but actually in the transition process with the public's mind as a mediocre entertainment company. We now have proof that this was not only thought about, but intended. Unbelievable.

DCA started the down hill slide and with this new information about the lack of concern and care about quality coming from the CEO and other high brow suits in the company, I personally see no end in sight. I am simply disgusted.

Great work Al for the ability to write such a depressing article while keeping your composure. I'm sick about this.
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A.

Thank you for the kind words Brian - it was tough to sit there and write that. Hopefully I got most of it down and right, as there were many different sources I had to utilize to get it.

I really don't know how much further they will go with the current mindset. The public has been increasingly speaking up, reviews are increasingly mixed on projects they create, and most importantly, the ticket and merchandise sales are slowing (acknowledging here of course that the economy is winding down a bit).

Can any company stay at the top forever? I think that's pretty much impossible. What I see now though is the increasing damage to the Disney brand name - one of the most sterling ever created. Each new lackluster park, each so- so film, the over-exposure / exploitation of character merchandise, all seeming to continue on what appears to be an accelerated pace - it's almost like they are paddling to keep their heads just above the water.

I think the day will come very soon (if not already beginning) when the brand will be damaged. We'll see then what they have planned for that.

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Q.

Amir writes: Hey Al! Love everything that you and your crew do here on MP. I have been an avid reader for years like many.

Recently, I was listening to the Frosty, Heidi, and Chris show on 97.1FM KLSX when I heard a commercial for DCA that was new to me. It had Buzz Lightyear talking about the things in the new park with some kids. They indirectly stated the names of the attractions through the 30 second commercial. When it was all done, a 'lawyer-type' voice quickly stated "Attractions and entertainment subject to change or removal".

That kinda shocked me since I have never heard a Disney radio commercial with that tagline. I can understand that they may change / remove entertainment due to various reasons. But that's entertainment and it is not in a fixed position. Attractions are. It looks like an admission of guilt on their part that they have a bad park on their hands when they are stating that at any moment, the NEW attractions that they have could be gone just like that. Its interesting... Maybe there may be some enhancements coming to remedy their $1.4 billion headache? Oh who am I kidding...We know that will never happen.
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A.

Great observations there.

Fixes are on the way Amir... the cheap ones go in first (the Electrical Parade, more character shows, area entertainment) and the expensive ones will trickle in (Millionaire and possibly Tower of Terror).

But the fixes (as I've noted here on the site before) don't address the core problem - that the wrong theme was chosen for this park. If they should ever address that one - the rest of the fixes could fall into place pretty quickly.

I'd start by ripping out Mikey's farm first.  :)

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Q.

Sydney writesHey Al... Question for ya from a loyal reader... I was surfing to find operating hours and schedules for the first week of July, and noticed that a "Beach Blanket Goofy" show was scheduled for the Hollywood Backlot stage in DCA... any juicy details? I think I remember you or someone else mentioning a goofy show... but do you have any more information?

One more question.... I've heard on local radio ads offering giveaways of tickets to "special preview performances" of the Electrical Parade at DCA starting July 2nd. Do you have any idea how this works?

Since DCA is open to the public till 11 pm both the 2nd and 3rd are they simply going to show it without really announcing it to everyone in the park those days? I'd love to say I saw the parade two days early!
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A.

Two questions, two answers: 1. I've heard nothing yet on the Goofy show - I did mention it was coming in last week's update. Expect rubber heads interacting with a taped music loop - the same goes for the Tomorrowland Buzz Lightyear show that is also coming.

2. Disneyland told people that they wanted to keep the Electrical Parade preview shows quiet - but apparently they neglected to tell the radio station promotional departments. ;)

Expect to be able to see the Electrical parade starting on the 2nd. Unless of course, they change their minds again.

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Q.

Jayne writes: Al, I'll keep this short. We have recently heard that Disney has purchased land up in Manteca, for a new park sometime in the future.

Is there any truth to this rumor? Keep up the great updates, we look forward to being always informed.
 

A.

Hmmm, I haven't heard anything but the other rumor that the Orlando Business Journal commented on - Disney looking at another Sea World Discovery Cove type of park.

I'll throw this one out to the sources I talk to - you folks hear anything? :)

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Q.

Dean writes: First off, let me say that I'm a long time reader of DIG, and think that you're doing a heck of a job and should keep it up!

But what I'm writing you about is about Disney's new film, 'Atlantis: The Lost Empire'. Remember when people were saying 'The Lion King' was derived of a Japanese animation series called 'Kimba The White Lion'? Well, it's looking like 'Atlantis' is more than just a little derived of a certain of a Japanese animation series called 'Nadia: The Secret Of Blue Water'. A lot more.

Here's a link to a page that does a character- to- character and plotpoint- to- plotpoint comparison of the two shows. The results are veeeeeeery interesting to say the least. But don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself. BTW, this isn't the only page on it. There's a lot more that are springing up saying the same thing.
 

A.

No wonder I felt like "been there, done that" when I saw it. I knew there were similarities, but even this may be a bit much. ;)

(And yes, I know this isn't a Disneyland question, but visit the link and see if you're not as fascinated by the side by side stills as I was.)

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