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D-I-G Update 12/8/99 - A picture tour of what is happening at the park lately
Before I start, I just want to congratulate Cynthia Harriss on her new job title, President of the Disneyland Resort. Hopefully it comes with oodles more pay, as she deserves it for all the positive changes she has made at the park.
Don't let her great skill at corporate politics fool you, she's the one pushing for a better park for the visitors, and she is also very visible in the park, totally unlike her predecessor.
This update I wanted to try something different, instead of making you read through a long update, I thought I would gather together some of the pictures I've been taking of some of the things happening around the park lately.
They say a picture can take the place of a thousand words, let's see if that's true this time around...
The Billy Hill show has been moved to Big Thunder BBQ, and works much better there [not to mention it has boosted business for the location].
I've heard the band prefers the Golden Horseshoe, but they really are at their best outside. The one change they should consider is killing the first 11:30 AM show and adding one after the 5:30 one, that would balance better with the serving times of the location.
Fastpass has arrived in the park, here's what it looks like at small world holiday...
Visitors first see the following sign, the photo should be clear enough for you to read it:
They then find the box to insert their ticket or annual pass, and both the ticket and the adjacent sign tells them when more or less to come back.
Above is what the ticket you get looks like.
It seems to work well most of the time, but on peak days can get bogged down a bit.
Although it is a free service now, rumors persist that eventually Fastpass will be an item you can purchase as an "extra" to your passport. It can in effect raise a passport price without having a general price increase. Annual Passholders would be able to pay an extra fee per year to take advantage of it with their cards also.
We'll see if that will fly with folks...
The world's largest parking garage is continuing work, and falling behind more and more by the day.
The view above is facing north over the Pinocchio parking lot.
Fantasyland CMs have new costuming. [I've blocked out faces only because I don't want these poor folks suffering from appearing on this site.] As you can see, it's very nice stuff, and updates the look while keeping in theme. Nice job.
The men's shirt is plain, the women's has some nice embroidery, and the jacket and cap is quite nicely matched. More new costuming is also coming around the park soon.
Very nice guy Steve hands Sue, the manager of Casa Mexicana on their last day open a plaque thanking them for being so nice to customers.
The staff was genuinely moved someone had taken the time to do this, and Steve was thanked by all the Sunday lunch regulars for his thoughtfulness in putting it together for the cast members.
Here's what it said:
Guests of Disneyland
For their outstanding quality and service that is truly the hallmark of Disneyland.
While an era ends today, we wish you success in creating a new restaurant that honors the legacy of Casa Mexicana.
November 28, 1999
Wasn't that nice? Again, thanks Steve for putting it all together, the staff there really deserved it. I'm sure it will bode well for them also when word gets out visitors gave this to them.
It's nice to see more and more merchandise keyed to things in the park again, and less of the generic Disney Store junk that used to flood the place under Pressler's past guidance.
Here are a few items of interest found around the shops...
The Blast Off book is based on Space Mt, there is also a book based on the Haunted Mansion. The Toad crest is on the back of the wonderful Toad jacket they made for the recent special event, it is still available in the Disneyana Shop on Main St.
Additional track is available for both the Monorail and Train sets they now sell, $10 a box seems a bit steep, if you need more than two boxes you should just buy a whole new set you would think...
Frontierland has new Frontierland logo merchandise...
...and the Disney Gallery [located above Pirates] has some rather unique items also...
This Autopia bookend set matches the tape dispenser that was offered at the Disney Gallery outside the park before...
The Moonliner [above] comes in a large model and pen set... ...the two mugs [below] are oversized and feature a park map from the old days and concept art for some of the attractions in the park.
With all that nice stuff, it's a shame we had to find a whole rack of this junk in ToonTown [below]...
If Plaza Inn had to pull apple sauce individual portions because they had Looney Tunes characters on the lids, why do they let merchandise sell Pokemon stuff in the shops? Those are the kinds of questions I've always asked...
The Disneyland Hotel has replaced the little remote control boat set up with one more in tune with Disneyland, a coin operated replica of the Jungle Cruise.
The detailing on the boats is amazing, and by crossing certain narrow areas with your boat, you trigger little special events.
A boat catches on fire above, and the Fire Dept [an elephant] puts out the flames...
Mighty Joe Young shakes someone off a bridge [above] to where they hanging off of it...
This crowd waits out front of the Jungle Cruise building for the next boat - the detailing is pretty amazing.
The whole thing is not cheap to run, tokens run $2 each, but discount to $1 each if you buy ten. It's nice to see something so Disney specific, the little extra touches in the animation is great.
Who knew this saga had so much to it? Again, very special thanks go to the folks who helped out in gathering information.
Before you start here though - you may want to visit the FABULOUS DISNEY BABE'S site, the lovely and charming Michelle also has some interesting observations to add to all this, that she got just before the information below arrived.
The fight? What fight?
Well it seems all is now hush-hush over on Flower St..
Officially there will be no firings and no legal action. The one individual will be allowed to leave on his own accord. When asked about the information out on the internet, the response was along the lines of "I didn't see anything."
Of course mention online to anyone higher up, and you get a cold stare. It's clear they want to keep it quiet to protect positions... Reading about the incident online is not what supervisors want.
People have read the notes [on Fab's site now] about the software incompatibility, but as important as those observations are, it's key to remember that workers have to deal with that on almost a daily basis, and that frankly, for the most part, they are used to that wheel not being round as it should be.
The animators keep telling the show programmers what they need. Facility does not build the units correctly, people that should be inspecting units do not, but they are then sent on to the animators to work with anyway.
The folks from Japan have been pitching fits over this with Disney Sea. Usually people have two or three different software packages to work with for one animatronic and then when it is inspected for show approval they wonder why it is not working as expected.
On a couple of occasions Japanese staff redid the mechanical end of some of the units so
people could actually animate them!
This is basically the way WDI gets around hiring freezes. They hire the individual, but farm the individual out to a contractors payroll. WDI will give the new employee a choice of three or four companies to choose from, and that is where their paycheck comes from every Friday.
As one wag commented: Nice cheese from the mouse, but it must be Swiss. It's full of holes!
More later if this develops further..
Millennium Fireworks Part II
Someone else was kind enough to write about the fireworks test the other night:
Doesn't this sound really neat? Does to me too, special thanks to a very special person for the info.
Ok, here's more about the WDI battle folks - understand this is pieced together from many sources. And it's late now as this goes up. Special thanks go to the folks who helped out with this.
From what I could gather, the entire rehab team plus a few two others involved with the Disney Sea project rode the
ride repeatedly Thursday, then when the park closed they examined each unit to see what was needed.
[This third party BTW has disappeared three times over the past six months,
but is allowed to return on every occasion. He has attempted to start numerous
incidents with other staff members.]
Just prior to the incident, one of the individuals involved in the fight was sitting in one of the ride boats (in the middle of the climactic scene in the area where the pirates are sitting on the barrels / creates shooting at each other - just before the waterfall ramp that goes up) with his programming console and other electronics doing some fine tuning of the animatronics.
Then someone from Disneyland turned the waterfall back on - forcing the WDI employee to scramble out of the boat and hastily grab the electronics before they got soaked.
After enduring that, this same person was confronted by the third party who said some very nasty things to the WDI employee from the boat.
The employee that was in the boat used an explicative together with words like "that's it... I've had it... I'm outta here." The second fighter then shoved the one from the boat with a comment along the lines "let me help you" and that's when the fists started to fly.
Meanwhile the third party started to splash water on the one from the boat (the one who was now quitting) which infuriated him.
It was at this point that apparently somehow the programming was erased. From the information now available at this time, it seems that no software or hardware components were removed.
As I understand it, from more than a few sources as the evening has gone on, it is easy to accidentally erase an entire programming sequence on an A-100 animatronic figure by just brushing against a key on the programming console. Unlike a computer keyboard, it is basically an in-house "contraption" - not like anything used by today's computer animators.
The keys for saving the sequence or dumping it are right next to each other. Some folks seem to think it is highly unlikely anyone purposely deleted the programming. It may have been deleted upon a hasty exit from the ride boat.
It should be noted the person involved had a child born 2-3 weeks ago and
was a fairly dedicated employee that was pushed too far.
Here's the problems:
That the work ethic around WDI has been - shall we say - lacking - appears to be an understatement.
Show programmers and animators sign for their eight hours or more and only show up for an hour or two. Overtime is paid for folks that are not there. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
On this night an employee was almost dipped more than once and there was no time to
react. This guy simply blew it. And the job supervisor was nowhere to be found. It was a Disneyland employee that called
Other tidbits about this - photos are supposed to have been taken and Security has them.
And the question is now asked, why does this type of thing CONTINUE to happen under Paul Pressler?
First T. Irby [according to the second volume of MouseTales] was so terrified of having his car bombed under Pressler's regime, he watched over it from his office.
Now that Pressler's in charge of WDI - Imagineers are fighting?
Is this what he's cleaning up? Maybe it isn't his fault, but what he inherited from Wong?
And, mind you - where was the Anaheim police during all this? Aren't they now on the property? And isn't this considered assault and battery?
Lots of questions. More to come I'm sure.
BTW - here's the latest on the Millennium fireworks from someone who stayed late this Halloween Sunday night:
Neat huh? Thanks to the kind source...
Disneyland helps out a visitor...
...who lost their glasses in the Rivers of America. I didn't think the park still had divers on staff.
Nice to know the park can help out like that.
On a happy / hopeful ending note:
Congrats Lani and Alex on the engagement! A nicer pair couldn't be had. Kudos to Andrew and Jennifer on their first anniversary - can't believe it's been a year already. And Todd tell Angela, my sympathies about the broken arm - hope she feels better.
For the last few updates you've been reading about how terrific the return of the Pirates attraction will be, what with enhanced elements, reworking of the interiors and ride system and re-programming of the animatronics. Everything was on track for a simply smashing early debut this Friday [the 29th].
But the ride people are seeing starting late Friday afternoon when they finally got it opened is only 85% of what was there only the night before, and it will take about two to three weeks to get it back to that level again.
It's an interesting story - and still unfolding as I type this late Friday night / Saturday morning.
Seems that sometime later last Thursday, thanks to some of the pressures involved in pulling off something of this scale, things got pretty heated among all the folks working on the project, and it got so bad that it appeared to come to actual blows between two of them it seems.
Security had to be called in and they found "two men with closed fists going at each other." [Their words, not mine.]
Yep, two Imagineers, taking swipes at one another.
This is bad enough, but what happened after the fight is what affected the attraction the most for us visitors - it seems that one of the parties either took home or destroyed one of the computer cards that maintained the programming of the ride - and all the hard work everyone had put in synching the new effects, bringing back the old show quality, controlling some of the lighting effects was now totally gone.
Of course, as it seems worse always comes to worse in these matters, [you guessed it] there was no backup made yet of same card - and the ride was as a result motionless and silent for a good deal of the route.
Everyone was blustering everywhere - people within WDI were embarrassed and furious things had gotten so out of hand, and the park was flabbergasted since they could not get back up a key ride they needed for the upcoming holiday season.
Discussions were held about delaying the opening of the ride another two to three weeks to get it all reprogrammed again, but the costs of the staffing that would have been utilized for an open attraction would have been billed back to WDI among other things and this among other expenses that would be due was just not an option for them.
Later on during the whole mess, someone finally located a back up card, with an older programming routine that could be used and then upgraded over the next few weeks as time would allow to get the show back up to the new standard.
So as a result, visitors will see a slightly compromised version of the attraction this weekend, with improvements being made daily to get back all of the little details they had programmed in.
What will be missing?
The Auction scene has audio sync problems, many new lighting effects in key areas [such as the thunderstorm] won't be at optimal levels, and little details that were returned / added / enhanced, such as the ricocheting bullets in the final scene before you go up the lift will all have to be painstakingly programmed back in. [A visit to the ride Sunday confirmed all the problems.]
Supposedly the company is either taking legal action against the person responsible to get the card back - or even worse it would be thought - if the actual card ended up destroyed after all.
If you've been holding off your visit to ride this attraction after the rehab, rest assured you still will get a higher quality show than what Pirates had been allowed to deteriorate to just one year ago. It simply looks terrific.
But it's still going to be a bit short of what they had been working on so hard to present - an enhanced version of a classic ride, now operating at quality levels that hadn't been reached before in years, if not decades.
And people wonder why I find this place so fascinating... ;)
I'll fill everyone in more as things develop on this.
D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 10/29/99 - Info about the Pirates rehab / Costumes / Casa Mex rehab / Eisner's e-mail / DCA's latest headache / Rocket Rods single rider line / Ken Wong's departure / Next year's events / Light Magic floats finally demolished
A chock-full update for you this time around, pull up a chair and start nibbling on that danish, OK? ;)
Yo, ho ho! The Pirates rehab is done right and restores some of the attraction's former glory!
It seems that Cynthia Harris, Tony Baxter and some other bigwigs went on Pirates the other day to check out the current rehab.
Harriss had the head honcho for the project get everyone together and gave a little speech on the load dock to about 50 assembled Facilities guys, painters and tradesmen that have been working on the ride the last two months.
As is usual for Cynthia, she was charming as hell. But the guys were all chatting about it later in the morning and seemed to genuinely appreciate it. A few mentioned that Pressler "never" would have looked them in the eye and acknowledged them, much less take the time for a little pep talk and chit-chat before an executive ride-thru.
Apparently Cynthia knows how to boost morale, that's for sure.
There's a little tweaking left, but it all looks very positive so far for a Friday soft opening. Testing continued nonstop yesterday, and again overnight tonight until 6AM.
WARNING! Minor spoilers ahead...
The ride is receiving it's finishing touches Thursday from Show Decorating. Lilly pads, bougainvillea, Spanish moss, cobwebs, books, coins, muskets, etc. were all being installed and positioned. Costumes are being fussed over by the costume mistresses.
New floating debris (made of a new buoyant synthetic instead of wood that eventually waterlogs and sinks) has been added in several scenes. New brass and woodwork in the station is being treated and polished.
Touch up painting is ongoing. Smoke and flame effects are being tinkered with. Lighting levels are being adjusted, and will continue to do so over the next few weeks.
There are literally dozens and dozens of people, from tradesmen, to computer programmers, to Tony Baxter,
fiddling with that ride the past few days. I've heard from many involved
that it's a lot of fun to watch everything going on.
The old GE fluorescent and spotlight bulbs had life expectancies of 500 to 1,000 hours. But the new LED lights have life spans of 10,000 to 50,000 hours! And they use much lower wattages to produce a better tone of light. As a result, the new lighting and Show Control systems have dramatically reduced the amount of electricity needed to run the show.
Riders will see that the new lighting in a lot of the scenes really saturates the newly re-painted sets with color. There are still a few small lighting tricks to be installed, and WDI and Show Quality Standards will work on fine tuning the lighting over the next few weeks going into the holidays.
The Bayou itself features a new type of LED firefly that is used in Paris. According to WDI, Bob Barranick personally positioned each and every firefly from both the perspective of the boats and the Blue Bayou diners. [Bob worked as a consultant on this rehab even after he left the Company.]
There are now just 25 fireflies in the Bayou, instead of the previous 40. But apparently Bob felt that the firefly effect looked best if it wasn't so overdone. The new style firefly is more effective, and word is they look great. Previously, only about half of the fireflies worked anyway - so the net loss is just about nil.
I'm sure you have probably heard by now about the two new anamatronic figures. The LA Times ran the story, although it was in a widely published Park memo a few days ago. Word is that they are a very nice addition. It should keep everyone on their toes for awhile. "Hey! I've never noticed those guys before! Are they new?"
Fresh paint and new props have also been included in this rehab. The Arsenal scene, just before you head up the chain lift, has had all of its show effects rebuilt, restored and fixed. Some of those effects haven't worked in years and years. They wore out or broke and were never fixed, but they are back now!
Everywhere else in the ride there are supposed to be literally hundreds of little details and effects that have been added back and polished up. As one person related to me "Wait 'til you see the Pirate with the balancing hats in the fire scene! He actually moves now!"
But, there are still a few other Pirates surprises for everyone to discover. The ride may open Friday [today, the 29th] probably, Saturday for sure.
About this whole project there are still a few fairly interesting behind-the-scenes stories to share involving Corporate politics, the infamous Internet, Cynthia's reign vs. Paul's reign, etc. On a future update, we'll look into them as time and space allows.
By the way - it's a small world is next on the major overhaul list - they are working in some of the upgrade / rehab in while they also do the set up / tear down of the Holiday makeover this year.
Look for overhauled interiors replaced / repaired animatronics and ride system upgrades. Lots of new paint and surface treatments, including a major overhaul of the facade outside are also planned.
The Blue Bayou gets it's snazzier new Jazz costumes on November 11th. small world gets its new sailor costumes in early December.
Pirates gets a costume updating in late February, a new style vest and some new accessories. The signature high-waters and striped socks will remain.
The New Orleans Square Christmas decorations that were displayed at the Cast Blast got many compliments! Alligators with Santa hats, etc. The Toontown decor also looked clever, with each Character decorating their house themselves.
The Cast Blast also had pictures of the Castle area decorations for this year that they will be using instead of the trees in the moat that had a habit of falling / blowing over.
They also played the new 45th Anniversary jingle at the Cast
Blast. Reports back from folks was that it was plenty catchy, and vaguely resembles
the "Remember the Magic" song from WDW's 25th.
Contrary to what has been reported here and other places previously, it now appears that the Frontierland Shooting Gallery is not going away. From the blueprints, sketches and models displayed at Cast Blast, the Gallery will remain untouched.
This rehab will instead push the kitchen and dining space further backstage into what is now custodial offices and alongside the maintenance garage for Big Thunder.
There will be an indoor dining area and a "Scramble" system with Tex-Mex and Barbeque. [No word yet if the made-to-order burgers were kept.] There will still be a large patio dining area, as well as a covered terrace.
The new facility will also have an entrance on the northeast side, accessible thru the back of the patio of the Plaza Gardens area for the first time.
It was also mentioned that when this opens, Big Thunder Ranch will be "prepped for other development." Are we finally getting our new E-ticket? Only time will tell.
Michael has finally discovered the corporate wide e-mail missive, and occasionally sends out a note / update to the busy bees throughout the Disney empire.
Like his rather notable yearly stock report updates, these e-mails tend to be a little obtuse to say the least. And judging from the example below they are always written keeping in mind that the outside world will get a hold of them in some way.
Here's his latest electronic thoughts - interesting in particular for what is not mentioned [recent corporate restructuring, shuttering of some of the company divisions such as Club Disney] as opposed to what was [Age Decompression? Sheesh]:
One response I heard someone high up in the company give back to this note: "Well... duh." ;)
A BIG thanks to the Fabulous Disney Babe, Michelle, for the special insight she offered about Michael's inoperative e-mail address.
The DCA saga continues - Parking garage problems...
Did you know that already four different construction outfits have quit working on the new "world's largest" [by 70 some-odd spaces as the CMs tell us] parking garage in the world?
In more than a few planning meetings apparently Disney was cuckolding the state of California that they were going to have the garage open and that their part of the freeway access would not be ready in time.
Now the tables seem to be turned - ramps will be built and finished and their destination will not be ready it seems.
Also in a recent meeting a few DCA types were crowing to everyone that they are ahead of schedule with the Paradise Pier area of the new park. One wag was heard to comment in return - "Why brag? The Orange County Fair gets their carnival rides up in a single night."
What's the biggest new concern about the new park internally? That visitor traffic will be screwed up and poorly distributed due to the concentration of most of the rides in one area.
"This new park may end up like Knott's - all the blue hairs out front gnawing on Chicken Dinners and shopping - while the kids are out back on the coasters and the carnival booths. The crowds won't be as evenly distributed nor as mixed as they are at Disneyland itself." ...from a comment made to me.
Rocket Rods single rider line...
Reader Dawn Russie [thanks Dawn!] was kind enough to share the following information with me, and also you the reader via this update:
Thank you for sharing this Dawn! I also think this is a great idea, one that got started on Test Track in EPCOT if I remember right.
Ken Wong's quick departure...
There seem to be two schools of thought around WDI about head honcho Wong's quickly announced recent departure:
One: "This gives the parks side of the division more control over things, it's a good thing for us."
Two: "This let's Pressler tighten his mall mentality grip onto the division even more."
I suspect myself that the truth probably lies somewhere between the two.
I do understand now that the parks people were key in getting the Club Disney arm shut down, and are also aiming for the DisneyQuests too while they are at it. They seem to feel the other venues are taking away from the uniqueness / frequency of a visit to the parks.
One interesting comment / observation from an insider: "Wong's goose was cooked when he wrote that memo detailing the problems within WDI and it then leaked out to the media. Any exec worth his salt knows this is what did it to Katzenberg, with his infamous movie-making memo. These guys think they are being honest and on top of things covering their tush with these notes, when usually by that stage they are already in hot water and half way out the door."
Next year's developments...
Regular readers of this site found no surprises in last week's press announcements about the park's upcoming Millennium parade / 45th Anniversary activities. [Including the return of Mickey's Matterhorn Climb, the new Fireworks show starting earlier in the year, etc.]
Pretty much what all this does is finally bring the park back to it's pre-Pressler level of entertainment / activity offerings.
Let's hope Cynthia Harriss continues her efforts to build upon this to offer even more in the future. She appears to be doing a great job up to now on all of this doesn't she? Kudos to her.
By the way, if you want an advance listen of the new Fireworks show music, you might want to pick up a copy of the new Walt Disney World Resort Official Album [I presume the Disneyland edition of same will ship early next year].
I understand the same music will be used out here, and for once they utilize songs from beyond the Mary Poppins era. Sadly though the performance is a bit turgid towards the end and has a finale that seems rather rushed and pointless.
Why they don't just use one of the best arrangers in the business, Michael Starobin [who now does many of the more successful Broadway shows] is beyond me.
Light Magic floats finally demolished...
They finally took the chain saws [after waiting the proper amount of time for accounting / tax reasons apparently] to two of the Light Magic units that were left. "You could hear them tearing at the things all over the backstage area" one person kindly wrote me. With that a very sad chapter in Disneyland's history is now closed.
There is, as always, lots more to cover, but due to the late hour, it will have to wait for another update.
Happy Halloween everyone! See you at the El Capitan Theater this weekend - [as well as at the park too] - where they are reviving Nightmare Before Christmas as a special treat this year.
D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 10/29/99 - Info about the Pirates rehab / Costumes / Casa Mex rehab / Eisner's e-mail / DCA's latest headache / Rocket Rods single rider line / Ken Wong's departure / Next year's events / Light Magic floats finally demolished
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