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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 9/25/01 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted.

The response to the article on the blue sky rumors about "Disney's America" was astounding - I have never seen a response like this to anything I've done online. Today's Ask Al™ will mostly focus on those responses...

Q.

Scott again writes: Hi Al, first, I wanted to thank you for printing my previous letter regarding "Millionaire". I imagine that you get hundreds of e-mails every day, so imagine my surprise to see mine on your site.

I'm sure that you've heard the news that according to the FBI, they have received "uncorroborated reports" that the major studios are targeted for terrorist attack in the event the US attacks Afghanistan. As a result, all of the studios have taken extra precautions and tighter security measures. At Universal Studios in Hollywood, they have installed metal detectors at the main entrance to the park as well as tables to facilitate the searching of bags. Large bags and coolers are not permitted in the park and apparently they are not allowing outside bottled water to be brought in as well.

The park hours will also be shortened slightly. Starting the 24th, the park will now be open daily from 10 to 6. CityWalk will also see its hours shorten this week. The new hours will be M-Th 11am to 9 pm, Fri. and Sat. 11am to 12 am, and Sunday 11 am to 10 pm. Thanksgiving Day will be an optional day for retailers at CityWalk (they were scheduled to be open) and they are currently scheduled to be open on Christmas Day. The park will be [traditionally] closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Regarding the "Disney's America" I had an idea. Instead of calling it "Disney's America" why not call it "Disney's American Adventure". I say this because first of all, because would have the effect of distancing itself slightly from the "Disney's America" name (as well as the unfortunately unsuccessful concept) and more importantly, It could serve as a park that not so much celebrated America's history, but rather its ingenuity, its spirit, its dreams, its freedoms, and most importantly, its perseverance.

I like a lot of the changes but I also have a couple of my own. For the Hollywood Backlot area -- This would be a great place to celebrate freedom of expression. It could not only celebrate motion pictures, but also television, radio, theatre and music; for not only have these mediums entertained us, they have served as platforms for our voices as well. Keep the Hyperion Theatre, and the Animation Exhibit -- lose Millionaire and Superstar. Add Rockin' Roller Coaster and move the Tower of Terror concept to Disneyland for their Geyser attraction.

For the Paradise Pier area, it could be given an Atlantic Boardwalk theme, so that you could keep the Screamin' coaster, but it should also be seriously revamped.

For the America's Heartland area, wouldn't it be a great idea to put in Storm Rider (like TDS) but maybe give it more of a tornado / storm chaser type theme.

In the "Golden Dreams" theatre, go ahead and do a film, update it and perhaps include a 20th Century narrator. Also, as a compromise between the American Adventure and Golden Dreams attractions, set the screen back a couple of dozen feet and have Audio-Animatronic figures that could come up from the floor or from the sides to interact with what was happening onscreen.

Overall, I think the Disney's America fix would be perfect. I'll leave you with a quote from the most recent Disney Magazine. There is an article about TDS and all of its various attractions. Here is what they said about their Indiana Jones Adventure Ride --

"...since an Asian jungle isn't particularly exotic to Asian audiences, this attraction has a Central American- themed port of call."

I guess the same could be said about a California-themed park.
 

A.

Thanks again for writing Scott - and the information about Universal will be of terrific use to our readers planning visits there.

Your ideas for DCA's revamp are wonderful, as are many of the other suggestions I got from readers over the weekend. One of the major problems Disney had (from I heard from Imagineering types) was that they had a heck of a time coming up with stuff to "fill" DCA up with - the California theme limited them quite a bit. The "American" concept seems to open up much larger vistas for them to work from - as you well point out.

I think your last observation in particular, really nails the problem right on the head too.

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Q.

Roger writes Al, Thanks for the excellent article on turning DCA into Disney's America. Once again, MousePlanet has it's finger on the pulse. What a great idea!

Personally, I love the American Adventure show at EPCOT, and would love to see that expanded to California. I think it would be a great way to save the park and, if handled correctly as you suggested, would be a great way for Eisner to save face. I certainly don't mind seeing duplicate attractions on both coasts -- it sure beats the cheap Aladdin and Dino rides they're building now, plus many people never get a chance to visit both parks. I've only been to Disneyland once, last year, and don't know when I'll ever get the chance to visit again.

I've always had hopes for Disney's America and would love to see it revived, even if it's not on the East coast anymore. My wife's hometown of Halifax, NC, lobbied hard for Disney's America after Waverly fell through, and I'm still sorry they didn't succeed. In addition to being wonderfully close to a Disney park, they've got tons of land, historical significance (the Halifax Resolves were the forerunner to the Declaration), lake tourism, and a major interstate (I-95). Oh, well.

In addition to "fixing" Animal Kingdom (which has already improved quite a bit), how about if Disney finishes MGM? It's a very popular park, yet it pales in comparison to the others, DCA included, on the number of attractions. And the park is 12 years old! I've written a column about it on my own website, and would certainly appreciate any comments or extra info.

Thanks again for the great job.
 

A.

Thank you for the kind words Roger. As I mentioned, never have I received a response like I did for this column. Granted, recent events have people responding more emotionally I would guess - but I also see in many of the notes the genuine desire for Disney to do something they have always unabashedly done best, which is salute our country. Let's hope this gets beyond just the rumor / blue sky stage it is at this point.

As far as Animal Kingdom - expect a great new attraction there soon, it looks like from what people are hinting at that Reign of Fire is happening at Animal Kingdom as part of the long dormant Beastly Kingdom. That would go a long way to fixing things there.

I am really hoping the other rumors about Disney pretty much throwing out the theme of the Studios in Orlando are just that - that park has a lot of charm and potential, it's just not been tended to as it should. The giant Sorcerer's hat they just put in is like the EPCOT Mickey's hand, out of place and ugly. At least with the birthday makeover of Cinderella's castle they had a few years ago, it was deflated and removed after a year of many appalled and disappointed visitors.

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Q.

Morris writes: Hey Al, I think it would be an exceptionally good move to invigorate the structure of DCA with an American theme. It would be challenging financially, and that would simply rest upon whether Eisner truly does want to loosen the purse strings, salute America, and swallow the DCA- was- a- dud bitter pill.

However, if this did happen, Tower of Terror would be a no-go. Just imagine the advertising, or not even that, just the word of mouth of some kids who went to Disney's America over spring break, and people over hear them say, "My favorite ride at Disney's America was the Tower of Terror!"

It doesn't matter if it's in Hollywood Pictures Backlot, most people wouldn't be able to distinguish without the map and signs. All they would know is that at Disney's newest park which discusses the American experience, a big thrill ride would be something tall called the Tower of Terror. What horrible things would they conjure up in their minds?

Maybe they could get around it by just calling the attraction the Hollywood Tower, or something. I don't know, but I do think this would be an excellent change. I hope they do something drastic like this (and tear down Paradise Pier) to fix this troubled park.?
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A.

The fix really wouldn't have to be packaged or presented as a bitter pill, or even a defeat for the company. It would just be Disney responding to what it sees as a new need, the celebration of our country. They could, if it was expertly handled, come out smelling like roses.

The Tower is a go, at least for now - how they theme or name it though I would certainly agree with you is a problem.

By the way, the advance word on the Tower is not good - it seems the dreaded accountanteering department (and Paul "they won't notice" Pressler) have decided to give us a cheaper version.  And plans are far enough set that we may be stuck with it.

Yes, they now have three drop shafts (to increase capacity) but they will eliminate what I think is one of the things that sets this ride apart from other drop rides in other parks - the whole section where the car comes forward out of the loading shaft, where it then travels along a path to the final drop shaft. (The whole thing will now take place in one shaft.)

DCA (thanks to this bit of info, and the apparent loss of the holding pen pre-show to the new Millionaire attraction) is really starting to sound like an acronym for "Disney's Cutback Adventure." It's like they want people to know and understand they will not give us the quality we expect of this company.

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Q.

Steve writes: Great idea! I would copyright your plans as they are right on. Even the pier can still be kept a pier, though blending in Cape Cod- ish like feel. It is time to do something with DCA. I am bored of it already.

Jeff also writes: Just a quick note to say that I really kind of like the Disney's America theme much better than the current California theme. I have never visited DCA and honestly, in it's current state (with or without a Tower of Terror) I never will.

The main reason is because of the "let's get the out- of- towners because they stay longer and spend more money anyway and Locals be damned" idea upon which this park was built. I don't have any reason to see what CA. has to offer, I've been here all my life.

However, as you pointed out in your article, if the theme were opened up to the entire country, it would free up things tremendously! If it were built and marketed as "a place to see all the things that make this country great" and "celebrate our national heritage" I could really get behind it.

What do you think, should I copyright the quotes in the above and charge the mouse a hefty fee to use them now? :-)

Matt chimes in: Thanks a TON for the great article this morning on the possibilities of turning California into America. GREAT idea. I would be down in a heartbeat if this happened.

I have toyed with the idea of taking a trip just to see how bad DCA truly is but you can tell Michael Eisner that he would get several return visits from this family if he is brave enough to do what is right for that park (and get rid of Pressler... but that's for another time!). Thanks again, Al. Love the site

Derek adds: Hi Al, Thanks for the information on Disney's potential re-do of DCA. I will keep it rather short, but sweet, and I hope the Disney folks read this.

I live in Seattle and I have made two trips to Disney parks this year with my family, Disneyland and Walt Disney World, even in the down economy. I had no intention of wasting my money to go to DCA. If they make these changes I will go. The changes just make sense.

Thanks for all of the info Al. I appreciate all of MousePlanet's hard work.

Ali types: Dear Al, I love your site. I love reading your columns especially. It's great when you bring us news and rumors. I especially like it when it's good news and rumors!

I absolutely love the Disney's America idea. I hope they do that. It would be wonderful! An excellent compliment to Disneyland. It could work in so many ways. They could publicize the closing of DCA like they did the Electrical Parade back in the '90s. It might bring in some numbers, you know -- being a part of history or something.

And looking into the possible future, wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if the Olympics were to come here in 2012? Or any time, for that matter? Shoot, if the Disney Company already owns Christmas, they'd be able to own most all the holidays once they rebuilt DCA to America. I wouldn't even get mad if they decided to turn that third park into a water park if the rumors are true about Disney's America.

This is definitely the time for it. If Virginia didn't want it, so much the better for us. I'm surprised Eisner didn't see this (bringing it to Anaheim) in the first place. Keep up the wonderful work!
 

A.

As I mentioned before, all the excitement and response this column got was amazing. Thank you all above for the kind words, and let's hope this is one blue sky idea that doesn't end up being just that.

Jeff, even if you do copyright the quotes - Disney may still claim them as theirs. Ever heard of that little Wide World of Sports problem they've been having in Orlando?  ;)

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Q.

Josh writes: Al, your article was sure interesting, and I have a few thoughts about the idea of changing DCA into Disney's America, even though they are just rumors.

I agree 100% that for DCA to be a screaming success, a lot must be done. I've visited the park and there's no denying that. However, "Disney's America" should not and cannot be done as a cheap fix to DCA. That would be making all the mistakes again. DCA was made as a cheap park, and we see what happened. (Lord knows the Imagineers would have made a mind- boggling park like Tokyo DisneySea if they were given the money)

If Disney's America is to be done, it must be done the right way -- the expensive way -- the way Disney used to do things. Sure they can keep a lot of what they have, like Condor Flats and the GRR flume, but a lot needs to change, and that's going to take time and money. But if done with care, this could serve as the savior they need.

They must also remember that the country's emotion in 2 to 3 years is going to be different than it is now surrounding the events of September 11. Who knows what sort of retaliation will happen and what kind of conflagration that will incite. That might have a huge bearing on the country's reception to a new theme park.

All skepticism aside, it would be a joy for me to see the destruction of Paradise Pier. I think that much in itself has me excited about the possibility of Disney's America. Let's just hope if they do it that they don't do it half- assed.

Thanks again for all the updates and gossip!
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A.

I agree with you Josh, they should do it right, which means spending some money. But what would make this attractive to all the suits right now is just how much they already have in place that could convert the concept to one people would have some interest in. That would buy them the time to then properly do the more lavish attractions needed to turn this into a destination park, which the resort really does need.

The one thing I found so amazing though that you mention, as so many other notes also discuss, is just how unpopular the Paradise Pier area is with people. That one area really crystallizes the problems with DCA for visitors it seems.

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Q.

Bob writes: Al: As a loyal Disney and theme park aficionado, I enjoy using your column to keep up with the industry.

I was Knott's PR director for seven years, and was at the Farm during the sale of the park to Cedar Fair. It might interest you to know that Disney was among the half- dozen companies that originally submitted bids to buy the park. In speaking with (an Imagineer) several times since that sale, he told me about Imagineering's preliminary plans to transform Knott's into Disney's America should the Mouse be successful in acquiring the Farm.

Ultimately, he said, it was Disney's decision that Knott's compact size and pedestrian and traffic circulation challenges would have prevented the company from realizing the level of return required for the investment. Of course, none of this news ever reached the media and Cedar Fair ultimately submitted the winning bid.

In my opinion, Cedar Fair has been successful in upgrading the park while maintaining the spirit and uniqueness that made it truly special in the first place. Still, I can't help but wonder what Disney might have done to Walter and Cordelia's famous homestead!

Again, keep up the good work!.

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A.

Thank you for your note Bob, and yes, I had heard about the possible Disney purchase of Knott's before, but couldn't run the item due to the lack of confirmations. Your note, among many others also telling the same story, helped to confirm the item, and now it can be shared with the readers. (I only removed the name of the Imagineer in your note to save the person some grief.)

What keeps sticking in my mind is the one comment another veteran Imagineer made to me once, about how all the old timers had seen what Pressler and Braverman had wrought with DCA before it was built, and they immediately crowned it the "Universal Berry Farm." 

It's ironic in a way that they already had looked at the America park idea for California, and instead decided on just combining concepts from the two major local competitors instead. And they did it by cannibalizing the America idea they had in mothballs already!

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Q.

Daniel writes: Al - I'm very interested in the prospect of DCA going to Disney's America, I'm a Civil War re-enactor and a theme park enthusiast. The America theme would be priceless in Anaheim for these reasons:

A: DCA is very much an urban style park this would be great if it wasn't surrounded be an area that is urban and futuristic in itself. The theme of History is something that would be a highly marketable attraction in the area, it's fun, it's educational, and it's completely new.

B: A California version of America would receive less flak from the civil war and historical communities. One of the reasons DA was killed in Warrenton was because Imagineering would have dozens upon dozens of civil war experts breathing down their neck and then criticizing their park once it opened.

C: If the park was built on DCA it would be destroying nothing of historical importance but DCA itself.

D: This gives Pressler and Imagineering another shot at making a quality companion attraction to Disneyland.

This sounds like a win win situation to me. Thanks for bringing it up.
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A.

All that would stand in the way Daniel is egos. They are huge and they are adamant that nothing is wrong with DCA and the negative reaction it is getting is all due to the media, with a particular wagging finger pointed at the web.

They have a chance here to do something terrific, but I'm not hoping against hope here. Those egos are massive. Let's hope the Disney company doesn't continue to suffer due to them.

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Q.

Hanford writes: Hi Al, I've never written to you before, and I don't read MousePlanet on a regular basis, so I'm not quite sure of all the details about your feelings on DCA, but I read your piece on DCA becoming Disney's America, and I enjoyed it, but I had a few questions.

First, you say it could be done "with minimal expense and fuss", then you go on to say that practically every piece of the park would be overhauled. I mean, just to change all the signs would be a major task, wouldn't you say?

Secondly, you say "It would fix in one fell swoop what is so very wrong at the core of DCA". Can you explain this a little more, or direct me to other articles of yours? As I understand it, what's wrong with the park is that the ticket price is too high for the amount of entertainment there is there. Wouldn't new rides and / or lower ticket prices solve that problem, and be cheaper than a whole park overhaul?

Changing the entire theme of the park seems impractical, a huge task involving destroying all existing Merchandise, redoing just about every aspect of the park except the Studios, doing all the re-branding and marketing, redoing / replacing most of the attractions in the park... How can this be viewed as (A) "with minimal expense and fuss" AND (B) fixing "what is so very wrong at the core of DCA"?

Simply put, it seems most people (myself not included) see DCA's problems as being SOOOOO big that any cheap remedy would be ineffective, and any remedy that would be effective would be outrageously expensive.

Thanks for you time, and thanks for the interesting and thought provoking article.

Michael also writes: 1st - it would look like a rehashed park, even though I'm not a great admirer of the park Disney should stick with the California themed.

2nd. America could be the third NEW park, with a hotel & park themed America!.

That way it would be done RIGHT! That way they'll be starting from scratch and not just redoing another park.

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A.

The key lies in how much of a loss are they willing to take over time. And keep in mind Disney does NOT want to discount this park - the original concept (and the way the numbers were laid out) was to keep it priced the same as Disneyland, a very unrealistic goal. They are now hemorrhaging money daily, and the expenses they are undertaking to try and fix it are massive. It really is a major problem for them, and one that will not go away anytime soon.

So do you spend some more now (keeping in mind this is in comparison to what a whole new park would cost from scratch), or keep applying expensive patches for years and years to what is a very lackluster foundation. The California concept is a limiting one, the America one a broader one. (Hanford, you may also want to read my review of the park, starting HERE. Some things have changed since it was first posted, but the core problems remain.)

Also don't forget, a few of the basic areas and concepts from the America park are already in place - saving quite a bit of effort here. Replacing what is inside the buildings is cheap - signs are also cheap - compared to tearing things down and starting over again. Paradise Pier in particular is so cheap (in comparison to what they have done in the past) that the cost of scrapping it would be the one pill they would have to swallow (and could do so easily) to make this concept fly.

They probably couldn't build America as the third park Michael - since so much of the core idea is already in use in DCA - if anything DCA really was a redo of America if you look at the original plans.

If the sky was the limit (or Disney was doing things like they used to, with an eye towards showmanship and quality) I'd ask for some of the ideas used in DisneySea as the core for the third park - to really make this resort soar the way it should. That could make the Disneyland Resort rival, and be substantially different from the Orlando one, which would even encourage visitors from the east coast.

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Q.

Chad writes: I'm a Walt Disney World cast member, and I've been reading your articles for a while now.

I just finished reading your article about turning Disney's California Adventure into Disney's America, and I wholeheartedly agree!! I visited the park in May, and I was pretty much appalled at what I experienced. I won't go into details, but let's just say I was SO disappointed.

Changing it to America would indeed fix so many of the problems that I too had with the park. I hope someone of importance within the company reads your articles... LOL!

Stanley also writes: After reading your article on Disney's America, I was just wondering if the people at Disney ever read you. Your suggestions and observations are very true and best represent what visitors to Disneyland and California Adventure really want to see.

If the people at Disney ever read you, it would certainly make a difference. They would get a better idea about the concerns of their customers.
 

A.

Thanks for the kind words guys. Do they read the columns? Probably.

As to what they think of what I write... well, let's just say the reactions are all over the map.  ;)

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Q.

Greg writes: Hey Al, Let me first say I really enjoy your updates. I only get to Disneyland once or twice a year, so I look forward to the information you post. I have a request and a question. First the request. Is it possible for you to create a wallpaper that's a montage of "Yesterland" attractions.

In particular, I'd love something with the Tomorrowland attractions circa 1980 - People Movers, America Sings, Mission to Mars, Skyway, Subs, Circle Vision and the Jets. That would have a permanent home on my desktop.

That sort of brings me to my question. When is Disney going to address the disaster that is the "New Tomorrowland"? The Sub Lagoon, Circle Vision Theatre and People Mover / Rocket Rods track all sit empty. Innoventions is a joke. Honey I Shrunk The Audience is boring after 2 viewings. Star Tours desperately needs to be changed to Episode 1.

Are they going to put in 1 or 2 E-Ticket attractions in Tomorrowland by 2005 (DL's 50th birthday) or just ignore what was once an exciting and vibrant land? Thanks Al and keep up the good work!
 

A.

First Greg, thanks for the kind comments. The Yesterland wallpaper concept is a very good one - and I will ask Werner Weiss (when I get out from under all this Disney's America e-mail) about it. The only problems that would hold us up are a] quality of the photos available to us, and b] rights / use of them. (Generally most of the Disneyland and DCA shots I take specifically for the site, and we have permissions from our Paris and Tokyo correspondents for their photos).

As far as the future of Tomorrowland - well funny you should ask. In the next few days I will have some interesting news for readers on that. All I ask is that everyone be patient while I confirm things for the column.

IF we get what has been proposed for Disneyland's 50th - it COULD be a very wonderful thing. In a way it would acknowledge and rectify many of the recent problems the park has been saddled with. (Keeping my figures crossed on this one.)


The following ten questions were posted on 9/20/01 and again thank you all for your terrific feedback and the many queries you've submitted. Do note the new e-mail address in the right hand column in case you do decide to write.

I always have a hard time picking from all of them for this update, and am terribly behind, so if I didn't get to your question this time, I may be able to answer it at some point later on for you.

Q.

Jeff writes: I was reading the DIG update and I had a question about one item:

I hated to see the Adventureland trees go though - not only did the "Little Man of Disneyland" get his house cemented over a few years ago, now he totally lost it last week.

What does this means? It's a little mysterious.
--

A.

The Little Man of Disneyland was a 50's era Golden Book - that told the story of a mythical leprechaun type Disneyland resident.

He seemed to have the power to look into the future too - as he shows on one page a future for Disneyland that includes a carnival, just like Paradise Pier at California Adventure (DCA).

Art © Disney / Golden Books
Art © Disney / Golden Books

His "house" was supposed to be in a tree at the park, and until a few years ago a tree in Adventureland had a little working door in a knothole to match the book.

Not too long ago the door was removed and cemented in - and last week the tree was cut down.

Leprechaun be gone I guess.  ;)

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Q.

Travis writes Al, Thanks for the great site and thanks for the DIG Updates.... I hope for one everyday when I first log on to MousePlanet.

Anyway, your last update left several of us confused. Is the Tower of Terror ANNOUNCEMENT on hold, is the attraction itself delayed or on hold, or is the attraction in danger of being canceled all together due to the tragic events?

Thanks in advance!!!

 

A.

The announcement was put on hold ...for now. We'll see about the ride itself.

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Q.

Brian writes: Regarding your update report on what Pressler wants to do to the Disney MGM Studios, Pressler hasn't learned anything, has he?

First of all, Universal knows nothing about building family style parks, with attractions that all ages can go on and each can enjoy at their own level. Also, from what I understand, Islands of Adventure has always been way below projections - why would he want to duplicate that? Also, IOA wasn't cheaply built.

I also find, as I get older, that I am more sensitive to motion sickness. I'm not about to take my kids to a park where I can't ride or enjoy anything.

You mention that Pressler should be fixing the Animal Kingdom - I'd just as soon wait until Pressler is gone before they try to fix anything. Has he been able to fix anything yet? Isn't his idea of fixing AK putting in those horrid additions to Dinoland?

Can't they get rid of this man before he destroys all the theme parks?
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A.

Pressler's track record is one of public misfires and PR messes - from trying to kill the Happy Hearts disabled discount program, to Light Magic, to this new troubled park. He even tried to kill Indy as it was being built.

But until California Adventure (DCA) opened he also had a track record of lots of profits - which mostly came sadly at the expense of upkeep at the parks. That was solely what he was being judged on.

It may well be that DCA could finally enlighten people to his shortcomings. He belongs, and the company really does need him, in consumer products. As you've heard me say before - he's a shopkeeper, not a showman.

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Q.

Chad writes: Hi, I am one of those Haunted Mansion (HM) "cult" fans you were speaking of. That is the best ride ever... with Pirates running a really close second.

My main interest in this redo happening is that when the HM Nightmare Before Christmas (NBC) redo was over we would have a much improved mansion as far as technical stuff goes. I also thought they would have painted...

I am glad to hear about the new scrims and clearer ghosts singing.... but am wondering about anything else you may know of. I know the Disneyana convention people were given a seminar about it. I would love to know any details you may have about what will be taken out of the ride for this redo. Its sounds like a lot. I was surprised at the new stretching portraits offered in the merch brochure... they don't seem as long as they should be

Also, do you have any news on the special gifts the people will be getting?? I am not in the 200 dinner packet and am hoping I am not too envious about the gift they get. I am hearing a pin or watch...that's no biggie to me.

Thanks for your site and all the reporting you do. Your column is an absolute must and is the first thing I look for when I get online in the morning.

P.S. Don't worry about giving anything away with me...I am not one for surprises.....
 

A.

Chad, Chad, Chad - if I gave away every surprise the readers would be up in arms with me (as if they aren't already sometimes!)

The Disneyana folks were sworn to secrecy, and I think that's a good idea.  This is going to be something rather new and different - as opposed to what they did for small world.

The merchandise brochure did give you quite a peek at what there is to come though, so look at those photos again for ideas. And keep in mind that if you are a big fan of the Mansion, and for some reason you may not like what was done - that the retrofit will only be up for the holiday season. The ride will return afterwards just as you remember it, with the bonus of the improved infrastructure. (The sound system in particular will now "kick ass" I was told.)

No hint yet of what the event gift may be - but I'm sure most of them will be destined for ebay.  ;)

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Q.

"B" writes: I just wanted to let you know that Michael Eisner has shown TONS of class this week.

Two Disney Store CMs were killed in the terror last week and Michael (he insists he is NOT Mr Eisner) contacted both families and was told he personally visited them as well. He does have a heart as we at the Disney Store Family have encountered over and over again. Thanks for acknowledging that this week.

Sharon also writes: Also, may I add to Adrienne's article about what Disney did right last week. Disney will match any monetary contribution we Cast Members make to the Walt Disney Foundation, Disney Hand: Survivor Relief Fund. I am proud to work for Disney and am proud to be an American.
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A.

Thank you both for writing to share that with everyone. As I mentioned before - there's been a lot of great stuff done by the company in the past week. And we call them as we see them.

Kudos again to Disney for what they have done.

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Q.

Jason writes: I would like to thank you for bringing up those security issues. (Could Disneyland be Safer?) In no way did I feel your article was trying to take advantage of the sad events that have occurred. I am outright disgusted that (another site) would use this as a personal agenda on you and your website.

Speaking as a former employee of Walt Disney World, I can assure you I have MANY times thought the same of the Walt Disney World Resort and it's security. I spent a lot of time in that resort both working there and on vacation. I can tell you first hand there are a GREAT many security risks there, just as there is at Disneyland. I am glad you called attention to this when you did. Lets hope that Disney works to secure there property and guests.

And Tod writes: I think that taking your concerns about safety at the Disneyland Resort directly to the Internet was a bad idea. The problem(s) we're going to have in the immediate foreseeable future are not the true-believer crazies who can willingly ram a 100+ story building with an airplane, but with the copycats and wannabes who DON'T have that kind of motivation and need to be led.

I think that you have done a disservice by pointing out these (legitimate) security weaknesses to the world instead of taking them directly, quietly to DL management.

Aside from this lapse of judgment, I think you're doing a great job with the site. Keep it up.

Paul also writes: Al, At this point there is no indication of increased risk for on the ground terrorist attacks than there was before the WTC incident. And as you admit in your article, if terrorists manage to get an aircraft to do damage by air, there is little could be done about it. And at this point, anything less would be passé.

Your images of a secured versus patrolled compound resort are loathsome. Please heed the Presidents' urging to go about your usual business (God did I just say that?) and please don't give Disney any more bright ideas about a police state style atmosphere at the resorts.

The bombing of the Pentagon and the WTC were symbolic of a political agenda. There is no indication that public places in general are now fair game for terrorists, at least in this country (although overnight, here in San Antonio, some god fearing American broke out the windows of a local Pakistani Restaurant.)

If someone was trying to target American institutions of note they might possibly target Disneyland, or Magic Kingdom (possibly EPCOT for its World Trade connotations.) However, no Goofball would risk their life on an empty symbol like DCA, or for crying out loud, that ugly parking structure.

I'm afraid that next you'll suggest that metal detectors at the gate would be fine too- hey, it's good enough for 6 Flags!!! Do you hear what I'm saying?

Even the increased handbag searches at the gate are fruitless when you really think about it. Disneyland security has always been trained to handle personal incidents in the park, one should hope.

Thanks for conjuring up pictures of possible death and destruction at Disneyland. Way to go, Sorcerer Mickey.

You end your article by parroting the popular media mantra: "The terrible events on Tuesday have changed our world forever. " Tell that to survivors of the OKC bombing victims. Or to loved ones of the first WTC bombing. Or to Caroline Kennedy, for that matter.

The events on Tuesday were indeed terrible, but you wait and see, for most of us life will go on in very much the same way we are accustomed to, tomorrow, and in the days and years to follow.
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A.

First to the three of you, and everyone else who wrote in (and there were a LOT of you), thank you for doing so. All feedback is read and considered, opinions, as different as they can all be are very important to see.

That column was one of the hardest things I ever had to write - one because of the recent events - and two precisely because of what Tod mentions in his note. It weighed very heavily on my mind. I also expected (and got) the all over the map feedback it would generate too. I'm very glad to know that the vast majority of readers understood that the only reason it was written was due to my concerns on the matter.

Recent changes observed this past weekend at the Disneyland Resort seem to indicate that the company may be dealing with many of the issues that were raised. And as I understand it, there is now also a much more serious mandate than before that any future projects will take these kinds of situations into deeper consideration.

Paul - I do feel strongly that things have and will change, as we haven't yet begun in our response to the incident which will surely involve more activity from both sides. We'll see how things develop.

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Q.

Christopher writes: Al, In light of recent events I have been wondering a couple of things regarding Disney theme parks.

First, I was curious if you have gotten any reports from Cast Members or guests regarding guest responses during or after the more patriotic attractions such as American Adventure, Hall of the Presidents, Great Moments with Mr Lincoln, or even Golden Dreams? I know that for myself, I would be overflowing in emotions and pride. How is our National Pride showing itself at these wonderful attractions?

Second, and only sort-of related, I was reminded that American Adventure still only has two hosts: Mr. Franklin, who was selected as a National spokesman from the 1700's, and Mr. Edison, the National spokesman from the 1800's. Now that the last century is complete, do you know of any plans to amend the show to include another spokesmen, representing the 1900's? Who might be worthy of such an honor? With the semi- recent refurbishment and update, is this original attraction idea now lost on the accountanteers?

Lastly, thank you so much for your coverage of all-things Disney and especially your comments and coverage of how the Company performed during the past week. You are usually dead on right in your criticisms of the way the company has operated in recent months and years, and as unfortunate as last weeks events are, it is great to see that Disney can still perform very well when they put profit where it belongs, and it is also great to see that you all at MousePlanet do see and report the good as well.
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A.

First thanks for the kind words Christopher - they do mean a lot. And second, thank you for your thoughtful letter.

At Walt Disney World I haven't heard much feedback yet about how visitors are reacting - which could very well be because so many people have canceled their visits. If anyone has any stories, please drop us a line here and we'll relate them in an article.

Adrienne Vincent- Phoenix has mentioned in her recent articles that the Flag ceremony at the end of the day at Disneyland has taken on quite a poignancy lately - and more people have been making a special effort to attend it. I am hoping they will list it in the "Disneyland Today" schedule again like they used to so people know it is still around.

Mr. Lincoln has been a bit busier - but the new show somehow doesn't seem to blaze the patriotic torch the same way the original one did for a lot of the audience. (Personally I feel the gimmicky soundtrack detracts a lot from the subject matter).

I suspect if we still had the "America the Beautiful" CircleVision film playing in Tomorrowland that it would draw in large crowds - and it would be easy to put it back in. The only thing they would have to do is reconfigure the exit a bit and put a sign out front - the theater is still intact inside and just sitting there empty.

I do now remember one reader sending a note to me when the movie closed lamenting that the patriotic attractions were going away one by one. (She always liked to take foreign visitors to them to "show us off.") Disneyland in the past always used to have something of that nature - "America Sings," "America on Parade," Mr. Lincoln, "America the Beautiful" etc.

Maybe the time has come for something new in the parks that does celebrate our country. There were a lot of concepts developed for the never built America park that could be looked at again I'm sure.

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Q.

Deb writes: Do you think Disneyland is an unsafe place to visit right now considering Bin Laden made threats on it before?

My family has a trip planned in a couple of weeks that we have been planning for a year and a half, and we are seriously considering canceling. My cousin says if terrorists want to strike D-land they will wait until high tourist time. She is still going with her family.

But do you feel safe there? I saw your suggestions for a safer park. Will anyone important see them and possibly implement them? I have another suggestion which they are doing at airports - bomb sniffing dogs in the park. I think a terrorist would, at this point, be more likely to plant a bomb than crash an airplane.
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A.

This is my opinion: Don't cancel. The bad guys win when the scare us out of the way we choose to live our lives.

The only time I would have concerns going anywhere (not just Disneyland) is when the government gives out information such as the following, below in a news quote from an MSNBC news story:

New information emerged about why investigators focused on Sept. 22 as the potential date for a second wave of terror attacks. Authorities have evidence that at least four people being sought in the terror investigation, including a doctor now in custody, were booked on one or more flights that day leaving San Antonio, Texas. Some were headed to Denver; others continuing to California, the officials said. “We absolutely have no credible evidence to substantiate any major threat on that date although it did raise some suspicion,” one official told The Associated Press.

In any situation (not just the current one), I suggest you: be informed - study the news - and then make your plans accordingly.

I do think Disneyland is addressing lots of security concerns now, (not just ones I've listed) which is a very good thing. And they do have dogs, by the way.

I will stay home on the 22nd (a Saturday) - but I will visiting the park on Sunday as I always have. I do feel safe there if that helps you in deciding.

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Q.

Lawrence writes: Al, Didn't know if you would be interested in this, but...

http://www.sequencemag.com/longline.mov

Found a video from a Japanese news station showing the long lines at DisneySea. No biggie, right? Well there's a complete rain storm going on out there, the news person is getting blown all over the place. The lines are so long too, it's crazy. I wouldn't bet on anyone visiting DCA in the rain, though there's lots of nice, covered, empty theatres to stay dry in.

Just thought you'd like it, keep up the good work you guys.
 

A.

Thanks for the link Lawrence - it just goes to show you if you build it (as it should be), they will come (in droves). And mind you their economy is in the dumps too.

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Q.

Michael writes: Hi Al, As usual, I look to you and MousePlanet for your excellent coverage of the park that is my family's second home. Heck, MousePlanet had information about park closures due to the terrorist attack within hours, long before it showed up on the official site.

Anyway, on to the reason I wrote...

Over the past year or so, we had continued to put off going to the pre and post-revamped "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," even though we've probably been to Disneyland about 80 times in the last year, alone. Today, we finally caught the new show. I must say, the spatial 3D sound is the best I've ever heard. Robo- Lincoln is his usual self, and the exhibits that precede the show are nice. But those exhibits bring up a comment and a question.

I realize that this is Walt's story and all of the various displays on animation, animatronics, Disneyland, etc. all focus on the Walt angle. But I was rather disappointed when, in perusing the animation section, I could find no mention of Ub Iwerks. A nearly lifelong friend of Walt's, even during his ten year absence from Disney Studios, and the one who is considered... well if Walt was Mickey's father, Ub was most certainly his mother, garnered not so much as a mention. I know that plenty of pictures exist of the two together. That, and a small caption would not have detracted from the very Walt oriented exhibit.

I guess the accompanying question is, was Ub Iwerks intentionally not mentioned in the exhibit (for instance, to maintain a purely Walt focus, or, perhaps legal reasons), or was he simply overlooked? I was wondering if you had any insight on this.
 

A.

Thanks for the kind words Michael - there are a lot of people working on the site that help make it what it is. I am always in awe of their talents.

My guess here is that a] they really did lose a LOT of detail (including Ub's story) because of how condensed this exhibit would be, and b] the focus this year is on Walt's 100th - and they are working with Diane Disney Miller on all this stuff and want to keep the focus on the company founder.

There's a LOT of the "behind the curtains" Disney story that remains untold to the general public - such as master animators Bill Tytla, Fred Moore, etc. Many people feel as I do that not only is a museum to Walt needed, (as the rather sparse Lincoln lobby exhibit so painfully illustrates) but one for the company and many of its major contributors too.

Let's see if the Disney family's efforts in this area succeed.

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