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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Updates
D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 9/14/98

I want to thank up front the kind folks who helped me put this update together – their efforts help keep us all informed as to what’s up. I couldn’t do this alone as you can probably imagine. Someday they will all be able to take a bow I hope.

Also, a short credit where credit is due: two other newsgroup regulars reminded me they posted first about the new take-home costume policy for CMs. My apologies to them both if I’d said otherwise in any of my postings. I honestly did not remember these earlier postings, I don’t want to steal anyone’s thunder. :)

There are some interesting tidbits about the Disney Stores at the end of this report – it seems they are for sale / or may be sold. I can already hear the collective cries of relief from Disneyland, since they are inundated with Disney Store management types now, [demoralizing the work force left and right] and this could quite well put a stop to all that and begin to encourage more promotions from within. More details at the end of the report.

Now on with the update:

First things first, I’ll start with the good news. Apparently the word had gone up the ladder at Disney that the park [in particular Pressler and Harriss] were thinking about docking both the Columbia and the Twain and not having them run anymore. And now the word has come back down that ladder – rather sternly as a matter of fact - that the two boats will remain. There will even be a new spiel for the Columbia, written just last week by WDI to debut very soon.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to hear this. I’m of the firm opinion that the L.A. Times story, [where the docking was discussed along with Discovery Bay concepts] along with the postings online, helped push this bad idea out into the light, and got it examined post haste. A related rumor has it that once the burning cabin is removed from Tom Sawyer’s Island, they will allow access to the back half of the island [now blocked off behind the fort, and expand the pathways throughout. Let’s hope this one is a go. The fort appears safe for now.

Now some sad news, yes it’s all true, start taking pictures of Country Bear Jamboree attraction now, and also be sure to see and / or photograph the Christmas show. The rumors of the Pooh attraction going in there are now confirmed. The Bears will be removed right after the Holidays, and construction of the Pooh ride will begin soon after. The goal is to get it ready as soon as possible.

The ride system will consist of a series of floating honey pots in a low speed flume. The pots will be free to spin slowly throughout the attraction, with no turbulence to speak of. They are looking at redressing some of the Bears to be Pooh characters, and the Sherman Brothers are returning to do the music. Think dark ride here. An adjacent playground idea has been currently put on hold, but my go ahead again either later this year or at a future time.

The reason for the rush on Pooh is that the park feels they need all the ammo they can get, to help pull in bodies that didn’t think Tomorrowland was worth braving the bad word of mouth. I personally don’t feel this new ride is a bad trade off – the Bear shows were drawing fewer and fewer numbers each year. But it’s always sad to see something leave the park that Walt had some kind of hand in – like the Subs for example.

At least for now the Country Bear attraction will remain in WDW, and visitors there are lucky in that the original show has been restored to it. It’s too bad this current management here wouldn’t spend the money to bring back that same show here for the last few months of the run to properly say farewell to the Bears.

Other news: Over at the Jungle Cruise Imagineers have been riding [and yes, almost derailing boats left and right] while they work on what appears to be two major changes. First of all they are planning the Tarzan overlay for the attraction for next summer’s movie tie in. Look for situations and plot lines from the movie, [even some of Phil Collins songs in the queue no less] interspersed within the attraction. Some ideas thrown around include dialog snippets coming at you from the jungle and the possibility of a story being told for the first time through the whole trip.

Think Movieland Wax Museum here, since the efforts will be very low budgeted, no new fancy anamatronics here on this one. I wish I had a firmer lock on what they are looking at, but everyone at Disney is probably still in the middle of just dreaming this all up. The goal is to make this a one or two year addition to the ride, but if demand is still there, it could go on much longer than that.

The second thing that MAY be looked into [and this could be just Union rumblings on this one, I can’t confirm it for sure] is that they want to automate both the Cruise and Storybook boats ride. The idea is to reduce the amount of labor required to run the attraction by replacing live guides with taped spiels and self-running boats. I don’t think I would like to be in a Jungle Cruise boat alone with a bunch of rowdies, do you? Let’s hope this is just a bad bad rumor.

Over in Tomorrowland, it seems that the problems with Rocket Rods have to do with the vehicles themselves primarily and then the software after that. Looks like they had the same chassis problems that Indy had when it closed a weekend right after it opened, [stress fractures from all the bending around they way they do]. But instead of doing a temp fix and getting the attraction open, [taking the rods off-line one by one], the park’s *brilliant* [the source’s word, not mine] managers want to do the permanent fix all at once.

Also, they are trying to rewrite the Rods software so that capacity can be increased. So for now it appears that the ride isn't coming up anytime soon, but it will be coming back up. No money has been apparently budgeted or allowed to improve any of the theming it seems though within the ride. How awful we have to sit through effects that made the Tron SuperSpeed Tunnels look like E-tickets yet again it seems.

Underneath the Rods platform, where the Lunching Pad used to reside, they have blue walls up and have started installing a small broadcast booth / facility for Radio Disney. If it’s anything like the booths they had for stations in D/MGM Studios in WDW, it should be the kind of place where people press their noses up against the glass while staring at a local jock announce the latest going ons from Disneyland to the Radio Disney network.

Meanwhile, across the way, the Sub lagoon will be drained very soon. The park wants to see if the sets in the caverns will hold up without the water. If they hold, the lagoon gets refilled and testing for Atlantis begins (the attraction doesn't have a full green light yet, they just want start looking at all the technology). One idea for it even involves water cannons buffeting the Subs around! If the lagoon falls apart once it's void of water though, then there will be NOTHING built in there at all. It will probably be abandoned, just like in WDW, a shirking of responsibility to let the next President of the park / resort to deal with it. I can’t tell you how sad it was this Sunday to see the Subs docked and the lagoon still.

Rumors are that the "enhancement" to Small World Christmas [under way now] will include the Matterhorn this year. Look for Santa and his elves to take the place of the abominable snowman throughout as your sleds get Jingle Bells attached to them, maybe antlers on front, and Christmas Music plays throughout the mountain. Hell, even an elf / Santa cap may be planned for the top of the Mt. This would explain the sudden delay in the normal yearly Matterhorn rehab until after the New Year [which is almost complete]. I guess this isn’t such a bad idea – but let’s hope we never see a Pirates or Haunted Mansion Christmas redo, that would be awful. This is a REAL rumor folks, I can’t get a second confirmation on it.

As you’ve already read online in the alt.disney.disneyland newsgroup, they are looking at expanding the Candelight Procession schedule this year, and moving into the WonderBra Theater away from Town Square. The expanded schedule would allow more people to see it, and the park can offer a reserved dinner and special reserved seat to the show as a package. Since the WonderBra theater is adjacent to the Small World Christmas area, and the Matterhorn nearby may also ge getting the holiday treatment, you can see how this all fits together. [I’m sure the Small World walkway will also be a tasteless outdoor vending orgy area – Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without getting everything hawked at you would it? ;) ] I can’t find out if they are going to repeat last year’s Hometown Christmas effort on Main St.

Since I had mentioned the Haunted Mansion in the paragraph before last, it looks like a major rehab is being looked at to freshen up this attraction. One of the things just found in the WDI archives are the four track multi-channel master tapes of the mad organist in the ballroom, which can be used to more chilling effect with new sound equipment loaded in. The idea is to spiff up the ride even more, not to make any earth-shattering changes here.

Back over next to the Castle, Carnation Plaza Gardens closed tonight [Sunday 9/13] and will be boarded up, with an ODV cart at the entrance to serve ice cream out of in the future. Until October it seems, there will be no destruction of the building, and no work walls - another cost cutting effort. Sigh. But, those famous blue plywood walls ARE up around the former Knights Shop [next to Peter Pan] and the sign outside says "New Villains Shop opening soon!" Can’t wait for this one. :)

The Mulan Parade continues to delight folks, and a daytime viewing of it surprised me as it held up quite well with the sun up. I was stunned by how vivid some of the colors were in the costuming, and how beautiful much of it looked in the daylight. Apparently they have decided to keep the portion of the parade with the Chinese acrobats, and will be bringing in replacements for many in the troupe as their time here comes to an end. The replacements will come from the same acrobatic group in China. There were looking at trying to train locals with some of the same skills, but I’m glad they will be able to keep the more highly skilled performers in the parade for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind for future visits that the Mulan Parade will take a break from Thanksgiving until after New Years while the park hosts the Christmas Fantasy parade again.

Meanwhile, out in the old parking lot, which is now California Adventure [DCA] - the problems continue. The preview center was stopped because there isn’t much to preview yet with all the changes continuing to happen on the project. The biggest one: They are now moving up phase two to have it ready when the park opens, instead of waiting until later. [I guess those Animal Kingdom complaints finally got through to them, they should have had more for people to look at there when they opened.]

So besides the new addition of the "Bugs" 3-D movie from AK [in the Agriculture section], we may also get the Hollywood Tower of Terror. If we get the Tower, that would effectively ice the plans for Geyser Mt. out back in Frontierland also. Some folks within the company are even trying to get the awful carnival area that Pressler is so dearly enamored of right now replaced with Discovery Bay, with a San Francisco gold rush period motif. People are making efforts to do smaller shows – but Pressler and his minions are holding fast to having most of the park either off the shelf rides / attractions and film based. The cheapest way to go of course...

From a kind source: According to the folks in charge of Parking Lot and Tollbooths, the Timon lot will be closed entirely in a few weeks. The exact date is still being decided upon. Immediately after they close the lot it will be ripped up, the earth-movers will move in, and preparation will begin immediately to incorporate the land into an expanded DCA! The current entry road and tollbooths, [in that sliver of land] will stay in use, but eventually it would be shut down too and the tollbooths moved and reused. There are still questions as to how visitors will enter the Simba lot. The Pumbaa lot is to be used for big buses and RV's when this takes effect.

There have also been some efforts made to try and force some of the WDI key "A-list" Imagineers to work on DCA, since they really seem to need the help. But most of the ones being asked are just doing everything they can to avoid this turkey [their words, not mine]. The disorganization apparent in this project is not hard to miss, the lack of any major work on the site for the last few months only confirms it.

Funny, when they started, Pressler and Eisner to some extent wanted more "malleable" people on the project, Pressler in particular didn’t want to fight anyone at WDI. He just wanted his every whim said "yes" to by a less experienced team that "wouldn’t bring the Disney baggage along with them" in helping to create his vision of a park. So I guess the mall idea he had just isn’t jelling huh?

I’ve heard that some people within the company are also questioning the huge expanse of space given to theme restaurants like Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Café and House of Blues in the mall area. The former two have had some severe financial problems as their faddishness wears off, and the latter one presents an adult entertainment problem that might not quite fit in with the family atmosphere the parks are providing just across the promenade. If they do end up in, then you can bet the money won again this time around, as opposed to common sense. What a shame we won’t see popular WDW restaurant concepts come out this way, such a Drive In or Prime Time Café.

As far as parking goes for DCA, the cheap route will be taking in regards to tram service for the new Pinocchio parking structure. As is stands right now, visitors will be walking along a footbridge over (or under) West St. to then pick up the trams over there. Evidently it costs too much to have tram service bypass West and pick up in the structure. Thanks to Pressler’s penny pinching we get to hike to the trams it looks like.

A second third park rumor is now floating around [besides the ESPN / ABC Wide World of Sports concept] is the melding of the best of Tokyo Disney Seas and Discovery Bay together into one park. I think it’s still too early to look at this one, but that doesn’t mean the ideas won’t be bubbling around.

Now the questions most CMs are asking right now is NOT when can I finally get a shuttle back to my car ;) , but could a strike finally hit the park? Another kind source was able to offer the following info:

The Union has plastered (everywhere) notices all over backstage about the unsuccessful negotiations. They have reported that things are not going well, that they called in a federal mediator, and have delayed the contract vote from Tuesday to next Saturday. The two sides still appear to be very far apart.

The hundreds of Union flyers have also been accompanied by an equal amount of flyers specifically addressing the new Costuming rules and ideas. They basically say that the new 'take your Costume home' idea has nothing to do with CM convenience, and everything to do with phasing out highly themed costumes that Disneyland must care for and clean themselves. As I see it, this whole 'take your Costume home' thing is just a prearranged slippery slope to the abolishment of highly themed costumes. And to get rid of them would do a lot of damage to the Disneyland Show.

Overheard at a lunch at the park the other day:

Things are so out of control here that WDI's only real job is to be "yes men" to these new managers, so that WDI people can keep their paychecks.

Al’s thought here: Isn’t it sad that people from the Gap are now so in control at the parks? Maybe it gets darker before it gets lighter?

Now for the Disney Store sale rumors. Apparently people working within [buyers etc.] are jumping ship left and right. It seems that actions taken lately by Disney seem to indicate that buying for the chain will no longer be centralized with the parks, and distribution of product will be handled somewhere away from where it now is in the Orlando area, which again still handles the parks.

Since the company hasn’t has Aladdin / Lion King / Pocahontas sized merchandising frenzies with the last few movie franchises [Hunch / Herc / Mulan], it has become clear that the costs of maintaining the stores, the employees and general upkeep of the various locations isn’t so attractive anymore. When the ESPN store chain failed to get the results they wanted, after a test store in Glendale didn’t do what they expected it to - they completed a deal with Sears to instead have them install ESPN boutiques [just announced this past week].

This has fueled speculation on a future path for the Disney Stores themselves – the thought is here that they will be spun off as a separate division, to be sold lock stock and barrel to a retailer such as Sears. Sears [or whoever pays the price Disney would want] would then run the operation, utilizing their more efficient distribution and human resource system, and pay a royalty to Disney for every sale, use of the name in the shops etc.

Apparently Disney no longer wants to do the manufacturing or buying for the chain – so as to increase the efforts being placed on making the park merchandising more unique. [My guess is the complaints about the identical merchandise in both divisions have finally been heard.] Apparently the rights to the Disney Catalog could also be included in this deal.

What would Sears really get though? A retail and mail order division that quite frankly doesn’t know how to complete in the marketplace and has been entirely dependent on movie campaigns to bring customers in. It’s important to note here that you can place the entire marketing budget for the whole division in a thimble, and still leave room for a couple of MBA’s hearts, since the Disney Stores have never advertised in their existence. This is an area where someone like Sears can come in and set up the proper staffing and divisions within to run this.

The other reason for this sale is to get Disney Co. back to it’s core components as an entertainment / theme park company. A sale at this time would also help the bottom line in a weak period, and supply needed funds for counteracting ABC’s continued financial drains until Eisner decides what he wants to do to turn things around. The idea of only collecting a royalty, without any of the overhead that can mess up your balance sheet is what is attractive here. The smaller Club Disney play complexes could also be seen in the same manner, as something to spin off.

Some thoughts here from me? As I’ve said before, I think Disney has gotten fat and lazy as a corporation. They have grown accustomed to huge amounts of cash rolling in the past, [thanks to a terrific string of hits] and they don’t understand that when things slow down you need to spread your bets across more areas that can bring you that cash in. [Although Eisner has bankrolled an incredible list of try out concepts few have stuck and grown as divisions of the company.]

For example, I see this problem at the WD Records division – they are at a huge loss as to how to exploit their catalog right now. They have become so accustomed to only releasing soundtracks and song collections that ship in large amounts, they have not developed their catalog well enough to build it into another steady revenue source like any other recording company has. They don’t understand that a catalog item, especially an older title that is already recorded and paid for, can sell fewer units than a hit soundtrack and still make the company money.

Likewise with Disneyland. Pressler runs it like he’s still in MSEP closing season mode. Billboards on the freeways have evolved designs [especially in the new Tomrrowland campaign] that feature almost illegibly small Disneyland logos, and show art and designs that doesn’t make much sense unless you already know something about the park. Newspaper ads [such as the latest Innoventions ones] have the Disneyland logo only at the bottom in tiny type. They forget Disneyland is the lure – and the old billboards and ads used to always feature the park logo across the top, and then the new ride / attraction / shows below it.

[There’s a rule in the music biz for example that you must put the title of a CD and the name of the artist in the upper third of the cover art – so people can read them as they sit in shelves or get flipped through in a bin. Disneyland should ALWAYS have their logo up top in any ad or billboard – THAT is what they are selling really – then they can detail what the new thing is they offer underneath. This has been a problem since the day Pressler fired the in-house advertising department and hired an outside firm, they don’t understand the product as well as their own in house people did.]

The movie arm of the company suffers from this too [although less so than the other divisions] – Joe Roth only has eyes for big blockbusters right now, such as Armageddon or the summertime animated release. If you really look at his film slate, it is nowhere near as diversified as Twentieth Century Fox’s which offers all kinds of movies for all kinds of market segments. One or two of Fox’s may bomb out, but they are spreading their bets better, and reaping a series of modest hits, instead of just counting on a few big pictures [like Titanic] to bring in the bucks. Even if you add in Miramax and Dimension, that variety is still not what Fox offers.

I can see this problem also in how Eisner is trying to run ABC. In an increasingly fragmented broadcast market place - instead of developing more ESPN / Disney Channel / Discover Channel types of brands, to satisfy the consumer who increasingly only has time for programming targeted right to him - Eisner is only focused on returning ABC to the top in an increasingly shrinking network market.

It’s a problem that affects all of Disney Co. really. They seemingly are only geared to deal with the big hits, and don’t have want to bother with getting or expanding any expertise or interest in all the smaller grunt work which establishes a diverse line of more modest, yet still profitable products. The kinds of lines that provide base flow of cash many companies end up relying on when they don’t have those big hits. If they had developed that cushion, the big hits would then be the gravy to expand all these smaller productive, profitable and predictable product lines to keep the cash rolling in. :)

Look at it this way, right now – if Disney were running Coca-Cola – they’d only want to offer you that one soda line. Plain old Coke. They would try and sell off the Diet Coke, Sprite and Mountain Dew brands because they didn’t each make enough profit as the one line of just Coke did. Now of course, if Coke starts losing market share to Pepsi again, it would end up being tougher for them, because they wouldn’t have all their other soda lines to help cushion the sudden downturn.

Sadly the Disneyland and DCA parks are being built / run this way now – the survey numbers determine what is going in or out. But no one is looking at the overall picture – just what combination of attractions will offer up all sorts of interesting things for all sorts of audiences. Sadly it seems they are taking the Six Flags approach of serving only one master, when their more profitable path may be serving a larger and more diverse group of them. Which is what Disneyland used to do so well.

It’s depressing Al, a long timer at the park told me one night. They used to come up with all sorts of promotions and concepts in the old days to keep visitors coming if the season got slow. These new guys can’t act that fast to react to slow numbers, since there are way too many management layers now. They walk away from problems, allow them to continue [like Light Magic and Anamazement] and then watch the numbers slide as they wait until the next quarter / summer to do something else. It’s like breaking a leg, and not allowing it to heal, you’ll end up with a limp that only gets worse.

You know, he continued, the passholders were the only ones showing up this summer if you look at the numbers. That’s why all these discussions about eliminating the program came to a halt when they found out the APs were keeping the doors open around here. You’d think they’d do something to encourage them, or give them more incentives to increase their loyalty. But if anything, they treat you guys like dirt. You can’t even come in for a causal dinner, since Berry closes all the dining at 3 pm and is trying to cut back on your discounts and food selections. Not to mention you guys lose benefits each year, rather than get more new ones.

And you know, those suits in the TDA building are still blaming the passholders for the ‘failure’ of ‘Light Magic’ and don’t even want to consider any more events or promotions for APs. He finished up saying, but you guys show up when the crowds don’t. You only told them how badly they’d done with some of their efforts, and they blamed you for their inability to judge their audience. Shame on them. Maybe the next gaggle of execs will see things differently, who knows.

You know I couldn’t agree more. :)   Sorry to ramble, but I thought you’d want to catch up on things and wouldn’t mind the musings here...


D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 9-1-98

It should be noted that quite a few different folks assisted me with these responses – wherever possible I used exact words. Needless to say I can’t tell you who said what, but you can trust that the sources utilized are sound ones, they wouldn’t lead folks astray, although things could still happen that they as of this report are unaware of. Names, locations, order of questions asked / responses have been changed only to make things a bit more concise and eliminate references that would pinpoint where the info may have come from.

[Begin Q&A]

Q. Any word yet on what concepts they are throwing around for the third park?

A. Everyone is betting on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. It’s all Eisner can focus on right now. With the Ducks and Angels, he wants to add a football team and basketball team to what he owns - then use the park to showcase them, and the networks ABC and ESPN. Orlando may get a half-day park on the same theme also. Look for player appearances, tie-ins with major corporate sports sponsors, you name it.

The best era for each sport will be showcased – for example Main St.’s equivalent in the new park would be an area showcasing baseball around the same era as "The Natural" movie, the list goes on and on. Don’t look for any serious work to happen on it until DCA is completed – or if the deal for the next set of foreign parks goes through, then maybe after that.

Q. Next set of foreign parks? This is new. Where?

A. Operation Tiger is underway. I’ll let you guess where the largest population untouched by Disney is located.

Q. McDonald’s Fry Carts are "imminent" at Disneyland I was told.

A. Any day now. If you dislike this idea, do what the customers in Orlando did, complain to City Hall about it when you see them. They’ve been pulled there, they can be pulled here if visitors make enough of an unfavorable impression with the powers that be. Pressler is just asking for another PR black eye with this.

Q. I’ve heard that V.P. Mike Berry supposed to be sick of his job, hates working at the park, and wants out. Supposedly this explains why things have been less than exciting in food service these days.

A. People haven't seen Berry for some time now. If he is tired of his job, it may be due to the constant focus on reducing costs and increasing profits. I'd certainly bail if I were required to do things that destroyed the park. I'd hate to be known for that distinction.

Q. The Tiki Room remains untouched hopefully. What about Cascade Peak?

A. Yes. Tiki is fine for now. Cascade Peak is being demolished and becomes a grassy knoll after Labor Day. There are a lot of possibilities for that area, so no one wants to spend anything building something there that may not be needed later.

Currently, all focus is on some of the smaller projects coming online. But even those are slowed down by the way things are run now. WDI doesn't get a go ahead that allows them to devote all of their attention on a project. The financial people bring the project momentum down to a crawl (or even a stop) as they restudy the numbers between each phase.

Someone posted an article about the funding problems that Tomorrowland experienced and speculated that it was because of design changes, and their subsequent costs. That article probably described a good portion of the financial problem that was experienced.

The first three project managers didn't care about the creative content and threw away money on designs by out-sourced contractors without the oversight of a creative director. The last PM's, who DID care about the content, were too late to correct the mistakes without the excessive added costs. [Al's note: As you look around the land, you can still see things that weren't finished because there was no money left.]

It is important to note, no matter what Guest Relations is telling people at this point in return letters or e-mails that the concepts for the Atlantis ride are also just that, 'concepts'. If it gets the OK, THEN WDI will start doing some reality design for the ride and load / unload areas.

The attraction is NOT approved, nor immanent at this point in time, no preparation will happen in the lagoon area. The biggest problem right now is that the park doesn’t think they can park all of the subs inside the caverns to hide them away from the public.

And there's no concept for 'XS TECH' or Alien Encounters in Innoventions (as far as I know). BUT, all this may be something that is floating around in TDA. Since the park now controls all the attractions except Innoventions (until after it gets turned over to them), what happens to them is now in their court. WDI does have some discretion through a smaller group to enhance or upgrade as funds allow. But beyond that, it's Disneyland's call (which means that they'll do as little as possible).

Q. The problematic Rocket Rods either: a] get scrapped or, b] the track gets rebuilt. Supposedly some big meeting last week pushed things to happen one way or the other?

A. This may be a park / TDA thing. It appears though that SOME of the extra work being done on the vehicles is more of a punishment and vendetta type of thing towards WDI as opposed to any actual structurally needed work.

One thing that people need to realize is that when the PeopleMover was shut down, the whole thing was going to go, period. One weekend you would have walked into the park and the whole track would have disappeared, just like the Skyway did. There were concerns that if it was removed, that there would be no kinetics left in the land. WDI convinced them that the park might be able to use the track for a new attraction.

Q. One of the head WDI folks wanted to attend a meeting Park Ops was having about the Rods, and was told he wasn't needed?

A. That's politics. WDI obviously still has problems with some of the people at the park.

Q. I was told that the "Bugs" movie from AK is now a part of DCA since no one seems to be able to decide on what is and is NOT going into DCA. Also I heard that the preview center is running late due to more changes that aren't documented yet in concept art?

A. It looks likely that we'll get the Bugs 3-D movie from Animal Kingdom - it's cheaper to just reproduce that here and the folks involved couldn't get their acts together to agree on anything better. That's current as of 3 weeks ago....

[Continuing:] Also, talked to a DCA construction guy and was surprised to learn there will be no underground tunnels or below ground construction. Cables, conduit, and water lines will be buried traditionally. It's cheap now but will raise costs later if modifications are needed. Considering how precious land is, I was surprised more wasn't built underground.

Along the same lines, the lagoon show they are planning will probably go in at a later phase – but rather than prepare the site at this point, while everything is easy to access and work on, they are saving the money by not doing it now. Needless to say this will add untold millions to the project if and when they finally decide to go ahead with it.

And yes there are still serious problems continuing with DCA, and sadly it reminds more and more people within the company of what happened with "Light Magic." Deep down many of the people responsible for it know this is just not that good an idea. But they are figuring if they throw enough money at it, they can fix it, hence the announcements of all the carny stuff being added at the Cast Update earlier this year.

Keying into this, so you know, it appears that half of the Timon lot will be reclaimed next month. It may be that they are very concerned about the bad word of mouth this new park is generating and they are moving up a few of the phase two elements to more closely open along with phase one. The Tower of Terror rumor is very interesting also, I cannot confirm or deny it.

You did notice the preview center due this fall [that they wanted open in July] wasn’t supposed to open until next Summer originally right?

Q. The reason they stopped spending money on finishing up the WonderBra tent was that it is probably coming back down?

A. The guess here is that it might, although the art direction for the fix up graphics was coming from a group who are noted for taking a long time to get things done.

Q. What about Autopia?

A. One idea is to rework some of the space needed for Atlantis, and to generate future Fantasyland space, the Fantasyland side of Autopia may be removed, with the exception that some of the track will used in Fantasyland Autopia will be added to the current Tomorrowland Autopia track.

Q. And the Carnation Gardens Rehab?

A. Though soft, an idea being bandied about is to "Paris"-ize the west side of the castle between Carnation and the Castle with a dragon/etc. This did not seem firm, just an idea that may happen.

[Al’s note, special thanks to Karl for his contribution on the previous two questions, the answers he obtained were very similar to what I had also heard.]

Q. What does everyone think of the CMs now being allowed to take their costumes home - all I can think of is some wayward CM being arrested buying pot somewhere in a run-down Katella motel dressed in his Emporium outfit... ;)

A. Costuming is now beginning to allow Cast Members to wear selected costumes to and from work... It started with Innoventions, which wasn’t that big a problem because it's such a non-descript unthemed costume (they aren't allowed to take the vest home, just the red shirt and green pants).

In what's described as phase I of this new plan, most Tomorrowland CMs will be allowed to wear their costumes home, which would be relatively fine if they actually went straight home. Truth is you'll now have scores of Redd Rockett's people in costume eating at Denny's at 2 in the morning, or worse yet, at Acapulco's drinking and carrying on. "Look mommy it's the guy from Monorail singing Karaoke." The line at the local Ralph’s or Save-On should be quite interesting too.

There was a funny note in the memo that announced this new policy: "Highly themed costumes will not be available through this process." So Tomorrowland's costumes aren't themed? No kidding. As you can gather here, I don't think it's a good idea. Now you'll be seeing costumes at the next Disneyana show. Is that so DL can save money by having the CM's do their own laundry? Next year is really going to be a bad year for the park at this rate.

Why are do CMs wait in long lines at the costuming windows? Because the most inept CMs in the park are stuck there so they never actually make contact with customers! Sigh, this actually saddened me more than most of the ongoing stupid ill-conceived decisions have... oh well.

Q. I loved the Mulan parade, as it seems many visitors. But I hear the budget was huge, and the overage came out of the Wonderbra [Fantasyland] theater show [Anaimazement], which very obviously suffered it seems.

A. Sure, the MULAN parade is good, Jean Luc created it. Eisner brought over Jean Luc from PDL. He is currently one of Eisner's golden boys, but he is a loose canon. No one can control him.... no one can even give him a direction!

Mulan was budgeted at $5 Million. Jean Luc spent $7M. And remember the parade is ONLY 5 floats. The wonders of that effort are the people. I like the parade too, but do you see $7 million rolling down that street? Sorry, I don't. I love the fact that it transports people. But when you are an Eisner-guy, your projects are almost unlimited in budget.

The fact is, very few people can work with Jean Luc, he does not understand technology, and, well... he lies about budgets. This is a direct quote: "I GUARANTEE that I can do the Epcot Lagoon show for $17 million!!" He is now off the project. The WDW number crunchers SAVED that show by killing Jean Luc's version.

So, we can say, "Well, the outcome is great, so it is worth the money." But what I’m saying is that this is more of the same crap, that extra $2M came from somewhere. It probably came from either Animazement, atmosphere entertainment, or parade sound system improvement, if not all or more.

My point is, some people have to play by one set of rules, and others by a different set. And the people that pay for the inconsistency is the visitor. $5 million for a parade is good money. Lion King cost about $6.5. Is the whole of the Mulan parade comparable in EMOTION to Lion King? My thinking here is absolutely NOT! But again, there were different rules.

Robert Ponce (LK's director) was very ill when he was working on it. And DL and WDC people just stayed out of the way, since they knew it was his last big production. I was at the final dress rehearsal and Robert could not speak. He poured his heart and soul into that parade and got what he wanted by default.

Barnette Ricci had hit so many home runs that she had a kind of carte blanche with Fantasmic! (and even One Man's Dream).... But there are no more Roberts and Barnettes.... There is no one there with a singular vision and understanding of what makes Disney, well, Disney. They have been carefully weeded out.

My belief is that Disney's ultimate product is EMOTION. Their brand dictates how that emotion is conveyed. But when you don't believe in magic, why bother. The business system now in use [where units compete with each other] has so fragmented the park, that its whole is no longer greater than the sum of its parts. No one uses the language of magic and wonder. And a great Disney experience is always embued with some kind of WONDER.... and the fact is: Wonder can cost a truckload of cash, and there is no one to say, "spend the extra million. We are Disney, and it has to be right."

And now, there are no longer people at DL with the political clout to make demands. Jack Lindquist had power. At one time Mike Davis had power. But one is gone.... And one is still there, but has no job. (Jean Luc is at a higher level than Mike Davis (who is technically Luc's boss, but can't be because of corporate politics) so Mike is kind of a lame duck. Pressler all ready told him that he does NOTHING without Tony Baxter's approval!

Anyway, sure, one can say it is about respect, but it all, once again, boils down to the question asked by James Barrie decades ago: "Do you believe in fairies...." And it's going to take alot more than a theater full of applause to rouse ol' Tink this time.

Q. What’s the story with fireworks and Fantasmic at the park? I keep hearing all sorts of stuff, and can’t confirm anything.

A. Aerials will operate through Sept 5th and Fantasmic through Nov. 22nd. Fantasmic! is going down, not only to save money (of course), but to do some sorely needed maintenance. Things are just wearing out.

Some of the pyros working on the show think the downtime is also a way to force the remaining Casual Regular cast members to Casual Temporary status. (Many guys have been working season after season and cannot even get a one-year pin.) Forcing all CMs to CT *is* a cost-cutting measure. Most of the DL firemen are also in the same situation.

Q. I noticed that the DL Hotel already has some construction going on in the Main Lobby area, whassup?

A. The DL hotel marina will be completely redone and themed. A Capt. Hook ship will grace the lagoon and the pool area will be Little Mermaid themed. (It's unknown if the lagoon/marina will be converted to a mini-swim park or if the current use will remain.) All the non-tower rooms will be removed to make way for the entertainment / dining / shopping complex, including removal of Travelport, Goofy's Kitchen, Monorail Cafe, and Grandma Maize's. Building another tower for the DL hotel is likely.

Q. Everywhere now I see that the park is slashing budgets, I know this was a slow year, [both rain and heat kept folks away, not to mention the disappointments with the new Tomorrowland] but they still make tons of money right?

A. The park has always been profitable. The problems lie in just how much more they need to be to satisfy Eisner’s mandates. Ann Dale [former merchandising V.P.] most probably lost her job NOT because she didn’t give the customers what they wanted, but more because her margins weren’t high enough to satisfy the bean-counters.

The park is a cash cow - ODV alone made around 28 million dollars last year. You don’t even want to guess what all the other departments combined did. But under Pressler’s minions it’s being run like the last weeks of a fire sale. Customers are noticing and complaining, but the attitude now is "these complainers are just cranks, most visitors think things are just fine." When you start to think the customers are wrong and only you are right... well you know what I mean. They don’t even bother responding to much of the consumer mail anymore for the most part.

Do note that prices have been hiked up yet again these past few weeks in anticipation of the return of the Resident Salute discounted admission program. They wanted to make sure they could help make up some of that discount with higher in park prices.

[end of Q&A]

Hope this helps answer many of your questions, it certainly did mine.


D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 8-16-98

Well, it's been a long time but I finally the got the chance to update the D-I-G today. Since over 3,000 of you e-mailed me asking what was up, I've decided to make this update in a short FAQ / Q&A type style, so I can answer as many of your questions as I can all at once.

Q. What happened to you? Is everything all right?

As you may have guessed from reading some of my posts, I've had some very severe computer problems over the past few months. But now that I finally have a brand new system up and running, hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my old schedule of updating the site on a regular basis.

Q. So what is happening at the park, I live in [insert domicile here, Maine, Alaska, Australia, etc. etc.] and don't get to visit as often as I'd like!

As you can imagine, there is a lot to talk about since my last update. So of course there are a lot of good and also a lot of bad things this time around.

As you can probably gather from the newsgroup postings, sadly the new Tomorrowland has not been the great success they had hoped for, and the problems with the Asian economy have not exactly helped either.

Without the expected numbers, that means everything is getting cut back, or they are increasing prices where ever possible to make up for the shortfalls. Food prices have been hiked at least three times this Summer alone.

It got so bad, that as I understand it, the merchandising department took a beating over all the wonderful [and yes, popular] merchandise they created for Tomorrowland - it seems the financial execs were complaining that the profit margins were not high enough. No wonder people want to leave, or they are asked to do so.

For longtime fans of the park the upcoming closing of the submarines due to budget / ego problems has really put a damper on things, especially with the future of this area in continued limbo. Almost everyone I've spoken to feels that yes that attraction's time had come, but to leave the lagoon sitting empty for five years is really a bad idea. Especially since current management would probably like to abandon that area anyway like was done in WDW.

The one bright spot this Summer [besides the new Mulan parade that continues to delight visitors nightly] is that Paul Pressler may have FINALLY have heard the many complaints about the decreasing levels of quality in the upkeep of the park and is finally going to do something about it.

The following is from the notes of a person kind enough to forward them to me that were taken during the Cast updates this past June:

...then came a topic heading that took me by surprise. [Pressler] said that Disneyland needed to (direct quote) "make a major reinvestment in Show."!! He continued on to say that over the last ten years Disneyland has opened many big new attractions like Splash, Indy, Toontown, New Tomorrowland, but that we may have let some of the older and established areas of the park slip a bit when it comes to "Show quality."

He said that he had begun a program to "reinvigorate the Facilities Department" and was currently evaluating what Facilities needed in the way of personnel, tools and resources to accomplish that new goal starting a little later this year. He also said that he was going to make it a priority in the years leading up to DCA to "Bring our Show back to life." This is of course very good news if true, and it'll be interesting to see what develops.

Since no new Disneyland attractions were mentioned (not counting DCA), I wonder if that means this agenda will be in place of a new attraction before 2001. Considering the sad state of some of DL's physical plant, it's a trade I am happy to make personally.

[Later on] At the end of this presentation a timeline for resort construction was shown that I'm sure you've heard before. What was also included in this version of the timeline though, in big letters up on the screen, was the phrase "Serious Show Upgrades" for Disneyland and it's attractions, which mirrored Pressler's statements.

Judson Green gave a talk on "Attractions". His speech basically consisted of hype and stock video footage of Animal Kingdom and Disney Cruise Line. He did not mention anything about new attractions coming to Disneyland, but did briefly mention the "show upgrades" to pre-existing attractions at Disneyland that would be made beginning later this year and through the turn-of-the-century.

Another person was kind enough to also write about this event:

Pressler [who was on crutches due to a 'basketball' injury] spoke about [many things, but] most striking [was] the Executive's new aim towards 'Show Improvement'.

He mentioned that in the future they're going to take a longer look at 'new products' [i.e., the New Tomorrowland] vs. improvements in Show and better Cast Member training. Go figure.

In the past few weeks, I've already noticed touch up work in Critter Country, and the ToonTown RR station is finally getting its long overdue paint job.

I'd take this all more seriously, if it weren't for the Subs situation. But let's hope he'll dazzle us all with a better taken care of park. If he follows up on this - it could return the park to its former luster, and that would be good for both us and the company.

Q. So what is in store for the park in the future?

Well, the first thing we can expect is the Fantasmic show going on hiatus from Thanksgiving through Easter. The Hercules Parade will end Labor Day weekend, with Mulan going to weekend and holiday performances somewhat taking up the slack while Fantasmic is gone.

There is talk of running Mulan nightly, since the park will probably be keeping later hours in the Winter. [Thanks to all those APs and the successful try out last Spring of this huh? Now let's see if they open up the restaurants later for 'em.]

The Wonderbra theater show [Anaimazement] may last until just around Christmas, whereupon the Candlelight procession, and its new dining / reserved seating plans, may move into that theater for the season. There are also rumors afloat that the tent is not being finished because it won't be around for too long - let's hope there's a big sale on canvas real soon at any of the local surplus stores.

Tomorrowland may get another attraction - the recent postings about the current Starcade area seem to ring true with folks at the park. I think the reason for this is that most people at the park and at WDI feel they still need to do more with Tomorrowland - it would only help at this point. For you folks holding your breath for the Rods - don't expect them back until later this year, if not next. They were being as optimistic as they could about them being back this Summer, but the problems are severe.

The low numbers in the Rods rider surveys - over 80% of the riders hated the ride - along with the low numbers they are getting for Innoventions [comparable I understand] will hopefully guide them into making some major improvements soon in this troubled land.

A bunch of gripes coming - watch out:

It seems foods V.P. Mike Berry is driving diners out of the park now with the latest round of price increases, restaurant closures, and inane polices.

I took a few moments one day to speak to some local restaurant managers / service people from the surrounding area. It seems that every time the park hikes food prices, they increase their business. The McDonalds on Harbor has seen a significant increase - not only because of the now easy to get across entrance - but they can almost to the day show you their increases each time prices were again hiked in the park.

You'd also think they would be more flexible with both menus and location openings at the park - heck many resorts have "off-season" value menus that take into account the clientele that the off season brings, why can't DL? A value priced off-season menu just might lure enough folks back in for dinner at the park when things are slow.

Worst food problem?  Breakfast. They do offer a similar one at three locations, TL Terrace, River Belle and Plaza Inn. The TL Terrace one is a very popular one due to price - but they cut it off at 10 AM no matter how long the lines are [and they are long thanks to only four registers being opened].

Does Berry know that people, ESPECIALLY on Sundays, MIGHT want to have a breakfast / brunch AFTER 10 AM - and maybe right up until early afternoon? Nah, that would break his inflexible scheduling I guess.

Now if we could just get back the best value in the park - the triple lunch at the Big Thunder BBQ again, eliminated because it was probably too good a value I guess.

BTW - how do we get that UGLY Gumbo banner down that hangs below the Gallery Balcony now? Can't take a picture of N.O. Square without that hideous thing getting in the way.

To save labor costs I guess, they are now ringing around ODV CMs several wagons to sell stuff at one time. These mini-swapmeets [the one at the entrance of Fronteirland is the most annoying] usually sell drinks, some other items like licorice, and Beanie Babies. Ugh. Efficent they are, but when to the rag carts start showing up too?

Gripe mode off. Compliment mode now on:

I've been meaning to comment on this all summer, - the windows at the Emporium for Mulan hark back to the old style of doing things -and they are quite lovely. Delightfully animated, almost sly, and they don't try to hawk you merchandise thank you. Well worth a few moments of your time to see while on Main St.

Merchandising has now increased their special events schedule - with postcards seemingly almost arriving weekly this past month. Nice to see they are doing more things - now lets hope they are going to look at various price points too, instead of just high ones.

Q. I hope you're not tired of the park - we miss your updates.

No, I'm not tired of the park at all. Remember, it's Disneyland we're talking about. And I'm still there on Sundays for the most part too.

Who knows what new havoc I can get into, now that I have a REAL machine running things.

Thanks for all your patience folks. :)

Thanks!
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