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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update

D-I-G Update 2/15/00 - Yes, the new Fireworks show is getting good buzz... ...but, the new parade is well, ugh... and is the Electrical Parade coming back sooner than anyone may think? / Main St. Cinema buzz / Pressler's O.C. Register comments / Fastpass info / What other parks have found out about DCA, and how execs skew research for it / ODV news / Smoking policy problems / Sub lagoon and Autopia info / Thanking KOST radio 

First a quick note:  I am so pleased to let you know about a wonderful new site about the four Sea World parks, the S-W-I-G [Sea World Information Guide]Matt Mendenhall has done a wonderful job of covering not only the original park in San Diego, but the other ones around the country too.  He really cares as much about this place as we all tend to do about Disneyland.  So stop by, take a gander, and say hello to him.  He's providing a great source of information.

Good news...

The very first public showing of the new 45th Anniversary fireworks show was performed 2/14, at 8:15 PM [after park closing] and again Tuesday the 15th at 8:15.  I was lucky enough to see it on the 15th, and there is now a review up HERE about it.  It's all and more the buzz was promising it would be, a really wonderful show. 

...bad news

Sadly the same can not be said about the new parade - which as of yesterday is undergoing extensive overhauls. [If you want to see what debuted last Sunday, visit the 45th Anniversary Parade Page.]  

Foofy dwarfs
Not very butch are they?  ;)

As I understand it, Disneyland's entertainment division is going to try and take over the project from former French Opera director Jean-Luc Choplin. Performances were canceled until rehearsals that were called for 2/15.  All this for a parade that was budgeted to last two to three years! 

From what several sources seem to be saying - the park's Entertainment department will try its best to stand up to Jean-Luc and protect its already damaged reputation, as they want to be given back the ability to run the division. The root of the problem seems to be Jean-Luc's relationship with Eisner, which made for no one at the park [Pressler in particular as I understand] standing up to him as the thing increasingly became problematic. 

Never before have the floats not had lights, sound, or animation - or has the parade route never had gels on the lights. [One person told me it looks like Anaheim Stadium at night.]  Cast members in the parade are disappointed, but no one is surprised at the outcome.  They too feel badly when something is so misguided, and they have a lot of work ahead of them to try and get the show into some kind of shape.

Apparently Paul Pressler and Cynthia Harrris did not watch it the night they were suppose to while it was in rehearsals... from what I understand Harriss has been quietly dismayed at the situation, and people throughout the company are commenting on how Pressler did not seem to learn his lesson from the last time.  [He didn't bother with Light Magic rehearsals until the now legendary, disastrous AP preview night.]

The replacement music has been ready since day one, some of the people involved have been talking to anyone within earshot it was recorded and done as a back up the moment that Eisner and Pressler approved the Elgar piece. Bruce Healy and Don Dorsey [who have done many other entertainment projects, including the Electrical Parade and some of the more memorable entertainment offerings of the past were both spotted during rehearsals working out what may be needed. 

Come Friday we'll see what they have planned - if the weather holds.  Anything is better at this time than what came down the route last Sunday.

LATE NEWS 2/15:  I got a cryptic note late this evening from a kind soul, with only the following words:

The French guy won.

Looks like the customers may have been the real losers here on this one. 

No wonder Pressler and Harriss are pushing the Firworks show in all the ads, and dropping the parade from any coverage.

Again, let's see what debuts on Friday.

Best news

Rumor has it we may see the Electrical Parade return much sooner than anyone thinks.  It won't be the old MSEP as I understand, but it will be a new nighttime pageant, with self-lighted floats to coincide with the opening of DCA.

Could it be seen as insurance if the new park gets tepid reviews?  More about DCA below.

Main St. Cinema News! 

Someone was kind enough to let me know [and it appears to check out] that it looks like there are plans in the very near future to close the Main Street Cinema for a rehab. There are no plans to let anyone know this is any different from a standard facility redo.  

Main St. Cinema
Good news, no shop!

Plans are to create a forty seat theater that will showcase animated shorts from the new Mickey Mouseworks cartoon series. the redo is to also include an exit into the 20th Century Music Co. shop next door. This is good news indeed, at Walt Disney World they lost their Main St. Cinema to a shop.

Pressler's O.C. Register comments

If you've been a regular reader, I'm sure you noted how there has been some coverage here about the problems at local toy maker Mattel, and in particular you may have read about a rather misplaced recruiter's call to me asking about Paul Pressler's suitability for the job.  It seems his name has been thrown around in El Segundo as a replacement president.  

The O.C. Register finally tracked down Pressler who commented [after the writer had noted what a critic I'd been of his tenure at the company and how I didn't disguise how pleased Disneyland customers may be at his departure on my site]: 

I have no intention of leaving the Walt Disney Company, I'm afraid that I'm going to disappoint some of my critics, no, I'm not considering it!

Apparently this provoked endless gales of laughter from within the company - to quote a kindly source in Burbank:

What a crock.  Al, he's utterly and completely delighted about all that talk, and has told people so.  It seems he was feeling a little left out of things after Iger's move on up the corporate ladder here at Disney [to the number two spot], and this only puts his name into play again. Don't be surprised if he leverages this to his advantage.

Why would I be surprised?  Mattel would be a wonderful place for him.  Let's hope they make him an offer he'd be a fool to refuse.  Barbie needs him!  :)

Fastpass news...

Apparently Matterhorn Fastpass is still cancelled, and no word yet on Indy. In fact, Fastpass at Disneyland is now in limbo and there is no real direction for the next Fastpass installation. 

It changes almost daily which ride will get it before summer. Indy? Thunder? Perhaps not another Fastpass ride until the new Autopia opens in July or August? Things are very indefinite right now. It's an interesting subject with many different angles. Meanwhile, with no immediate successor, Space Mountain will keep it's Fastpass for the foreseeable future. 

Visitors, once they figure it out, love Fastpass, and they want it on more rides. However, the easiest rides have already been "Fastpassed." The remaining Fastpass candidates will be significantly more challenging to accomplish.

By the way, someone did write me about Indy's current loading situation:

That info you have about the Indy wait time is wrong. In order to get a good rating score the wait time must be within 5 minutes. the only reason it comes out wrong is because there are not cameras in the line to help monitor and there can be up to an hour between bumps so that CM's have a chance to walk the queue and check on the real wait. Not to mention the wait time depends on the number of cars running at any one time. The wait can look short, but with only 9 cars it is really long. 

Nine cars?  Ouch, that IS a long line to wait in when they cut it back to that.

Oooh coins...

Visitors booking trips to the park through the Walt Disney Travel Company will receive a voucher for an exclusive "45 Years of Magic" Commemorative Coin, redeemable only at the Premiere Shop in Tomorrowland. These new coins, an incentive for booking with Disney, must be purchased in advance in conjunction with a vacation package, and are not for sale to regular park visitors.

Pin Trading

Visitors can now purchase and trade collectible pins in a new resort-wide pin trading program. About twelve new pins will become available each month, which people can purchase and collect, or trade at four pin trading stations. 

Pin trading signs
Look for these signs to pin trade.

Initially, selected on-stage CM's will be trained to trade pins with visitors, as well as share stories behind each pin.

Reader Scott kindly writes:

I don’t know if you mention the landscaping at [the park] much but over the last year I’ve been blown away by the job those folks are doing. All the spring bulbs and stuff are striking and the whole park smells great. I was at the Magic Kingdom in WDW over New Year’s and I couldn’t help noticing that the Disneyland landscaping just beats them all to death. And that was before it got cold down there.

I have to agree, it's really been looking wonderful again.  Kudos to the landscaping department.  What colors and scents!

Now what would an update be without something about DCA, er, Disney's California Adventure park?

Some CM's have gone over and started testing a few of the rides at DCA. There's a little rule they all have to abide by though. The CM's that have gone over all must call the new Park "Disney's California Adventure" instead of simply saying "DCA."

It is felt in upper management that "DCA" is too derogatory, not respectful enough, and is associated too closely with the Park's Internet critics. [Gosh, who could those be?]  

If you are caught saying "DCA" instead of "Disney's California Adventure", you have to put 25 cents in a jar.  It seems the jar is filling up with Quarters rather quickly because "DCA" is already a common phrase among the CM's, and the alternative, "Disney's California Adventure", is a real mouth-full when you are constantly using it in meetings and casual work conversations.

No word yet on whether this new policy will be expanded to include TDA, er, "Team Disney Anaheim". And what about "Main Street USA"? Does "Main Street United States of America" flow off the lips a bit better?

As someone who was filling me in on this said:

You can't make this stuff up Al, you really can't!

I know.  Why do you think so many people love reading these updates?  ;)

Ticket windows
New ticket booth windows have familiar shaped cut-outs

Research, and how to skew it.

Speaking of DCA, er um, heck forget it, it seems that two other theme park concerns have been doing a bit of their own visitor quizzing about Disney's parking lot carnival.  

In two different conversations I heard pretty much the same story about initial visitor impressions of what is going on. Surveys were performed with visitors by these companies on their own property, they were first asked if they had been to Disneyland during their current visit before the questions were popped.  

Both sources seem to find the following, very similar, impressions:

  • People are surprised to find out there will be a separate admission for the new park
  • They feel the types of attractions they now see going up won't be worth the same amount as Disneyland charges to get in
  • A common remark was "those rides don't look like normal Disney rides"
  • They expressed quite a bit of shock at the proposed pricing [$300 a night] at the new Grand Californian Hotel
  • When told how many movies are planned as part of the attraction mix they seem very disappointed
  • Most did not think they would be interested in the mall aspect of the resort
  • The Californian theme was a real turn-off - many felt it had little repeat value, a one-visit park
  • Most would consider a combo ticket for a same day visit to be of interest to them, but they would not extend their stay a day for this park as it was currently explained to them.

Needless to say these surveys have helped both companies do some solid planning for their venues once the DCA opens.

It's interesting to remember that both Pressler and Eisner have commented that Disney has done surveys that predict the new park will be a big hit.  But some people familiar with what little work was actually done, and who I chatted with again, gave the following background about them:

The questions in those "surveys" did little to get information about what people would like or not like.  As with many surveys now here at Disney, they seem to be designed to try and justify what the executive commissioning them wants to do in the first place, as opposed to finding out what people may really like or not like.

It's all about the corporate ego now - and has very little to do with consumer's feedback anymore.  They just are utilizing these tools to justify what they want to do.

This was the same commentary I heard about Disneyland's own in-park surveys in the past, and talked about on this forum, among others, before.

I have a feeling they will be very surprised at what people end up thinking about the finished DCA "product."  It may well be that they didn't learn from past mistakes.

Darrin writes about the DCA site:

Hey Al, I really enjoy reading you DCA updates, but how come you never use the proper names for the rides? No offense meant, I just wondered if you knew the proper names.

There's a good reason I don't use Disney's names for the rides, because very simply they just don't describe what the rides actually do.  Unlike Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion for example at the main park, the new descriptions do little to tell visitors about what they are.

Considering just how mundane some of the carnival stuff really is, I guess I can't blame Disney wanting to give fancy names to them.

New photo guide books...

They finally updated the souvenir guide book for the 45th Anniversary.  While it is nice to have it updated, the printing quality is rather poor, and most of the photos are either blurry or grainy.  

New picture book
Nice, but not quite what it should be.

A hardbound book that also duplicates much of the same content of the above has just been made available too - but it suffers from the same poor quality printing problems the other does.

Let's hope the coming wall maps will be of better quality.

I get e-mail.

Interesting reading...

As a recent cast member in ODV, I can assure you that everything you have heard about the costume thing is true, and then some. I would routinely change into a clean (at least, they told me it was clean) costume at the end of the day, and then take it home with me, not to steal it, but so I could avoid having to come to work an hour early to be at my office on time. 

Unfortunately, in ODV, you could be anywhere the next day, except where you were scheduled to be, so this only worked maybe twice a week. This costuming problem, along with the disaster that has become our parking lot, were main contributors to the reason that I quit (the lack of pay helped an awful lot, though). 

And I was not one of the first ones to do this for that reason, either. About a week before I put my two weeks in, a friend of mine was on an ice cream wagon. When the relief came to give him his first break, he discovered that the wagon was vacant, and that the fund was locked inside. There was a note in the cash register: "The magic is gone." I discussed this with a friend of mine on my lunch break, then, he went back to his wagon and did the same thing (I did not encourage him in any way, I simply told him what had happened). 

Then, a week later, a young lady received her relief assignments that morning, took one look at them, said: "These assignments are ridiculous. There is too much here for one person to handle. In fact, this whole place is ridiculous." She set down her I.D. card, and nametag, and left. This all occurred in a three week time span. 

My last day was also two other peoples' last day, and I know of at least ten others who have since quit. And, unless management can do something to improve our situation (such as moving the cast member parking lot to the overflow lot on Freedman, and giving CM's the option of waiting for the shuttle or walking), not to mention our pay, the quality of Cast Members at Disneyland are going to deteriorate rapidly, especially when DCA opens. 

No comment.

Speaking of ODV:

We have Pressler to thank for this one it seems.  

Apparently a few weeks ago an ODV person went to work his shift at a popcorn cart in Tomorrowland.  He arrived to find that the cart was abandoned, and all the cash in the drawer was gone.

Turns out with all the take-home costuming, someone came into the park in ODV threads, breezed on by security, walked up to the cart in the park pretending he worked there, and sent off the legit worker on an early break.  This allowed said person to clean out the cash drawer and walk right on out again.

Nice going Paul.  Save a few cents on laundry, lose big money on theft.  

What is going on in the Sub lagoon?

They are building an elevator to the second boarding level for the Monorail, and the line for that ride is being moved from around the lagoon to under the platform using the old Submarine queue.

New elevator
New elevator for the Monorail platform.

I wonder where they are going to put the lines for the Atlantis ride, if and when that one finally gets the OK?

Autopia is ahead of schedule...

...but there is concern from Imagineering that not having anyone on site to watch over it may lead to some problems further on down the line with it.

Another Pressler cost-saving move I understand.

The good thing is Autopia may open later this Spring if things keep going well.

New no-smoking policy is erratically enforced...

...because it seems park management didn't understand the people who most need to be warned about it speak / read only Japanese, Spanish, French and German it appears. 

No smoking sign out front
English only!

They keep forgetting the park is an international destination - for example they still need to do parade announcements in other languages than just English.

Fab Four news...

Ardy Sarraf [Paul] from the FAB FOUR [the wonderful Beatles tribute band that plays the Tomorrowland Terrace occasionally] was kind enough to drop me an e-mail and let me know they have a new website - www.thefabfour.net - where you can stop by to see when they have their next shows scheduled at the park. [You can also re-visit the page I did about them, now at AL'S ARCHIVES.]

That sure looks like Paul and George
Ardy [as Paul, left above] will be returning to the park soon!

Don't miss them if you get a chance to be there when they are, as they put on a great show. 

A special thanks to KOST radio here locally...

They have been mentioning this site on-air mornings.  Thanks guys, it means a lot that you would do so.

That about does it for now, see you all at Disneyland!


D-I-G Update 1/24/00 - More about the costuming problems / More about Fastpass / Tiki Room Update / Splash Mt. news / Good news about Tom Sawyer Island / Non-smoking policy refined

You know you strike a nerve with folks when the e-mail starts pouring in after an update, and Disneyland's cast members let me know in droves just how bad it had gotten in costuming over the holidays.  They not only confirmed the problems noted in the last update, but detailed many more of their own experiences in a barrage of e-mails and phone calls.

Here's one chat that I can share with you that gives you an idea of what an ordeal this had become for them:

X: I could give some personal commentary re: costuming if you like =)

Al: Any commentary is always welcome. ;) 

X: One day I was working, and had plenty of time, having arrived 25 minutes before my scheduled start time. well, it was all of those 25 minutes before I got up to the window. I had the guy who's a few cards short of a rummy game. I told him the costume I needed, he swiped my ID and disappeared into the back

A full 5 minutes (on the clock, not estimated!) later, he comes back with the costume. I saw the size on one piece and instantly knew it to be too small. (That costume only comes in small sizes for women - ridiculous.) 

I said "hey, there's a problem, that's not going to fit, it's too small" his response (quite in a rude tone too) was "well then it stands to reason that they're all too small, doesn't it" (mind you, he NEVER bothered to ask my size, I had to assume he got it off the computer, but the sizes he brought me were way smaller than what would be in the computer). 

He disappears for a long period of time and comes back with some conglomeration of costume pieces from various areas which I take and go to put on  ...they don't fit. 

So I go back and this time (thankfully) get a different person. I explain the problem, she disappears in the back for several minutes when she returns she reports that the sizes I'd been given were the largest they had, nothing bigger existed so I said give me an alternate costume 

She asked which costume I wanted, I said: Whatever costume you guys usually give when something doesn't fit for this area she said: well I can give you anything... I said: I'm LATE, give me ANYTHING I can wear, and if they have a problem with it, they can send me back on THEIR time she gives me a [land deleted] costume (totally out of place for where I was working, but I was desperate) I take it and again go to put it on it doesn't fit.

By this time I'm considerably late, so I called my area to explain that I was NOT accepting responsibility for this, that it was costuming's doing, and they understood ALL too well I get back to the girl and tell her the costume doesn't fit... then I say "can I just have the men's costume (for this area) please?" she gets it for me. it fits reasonably well (the pants were too big, but i didn't want to risk their being too small, so I'd overestimated my size just in case) 

I finally get to my location 45 minutes after i first got in the costuming lines.  And I find out later that they're supposed to AUTOMATICALLY give the men's if the women's doesn't fit because there are so few sizes in the women's actually, so, over and above being understaffed, they are poorly trained some, like that guy, are even rude 

Al: Pay peanuts get monkeys.

X: LOL - too true.  I've even been made to wait at a costuming window while the CM chit-chatted with the person in front of me, even when I'm running late. So many of them JUST don't know what they're working with.

Imagine if the people in foods made as many mistakes with customers as the people in costuming do... 

Visitor: I'd like a burger, but I'm allergic to cheese, so leave that off please.

CM: Here you go.

Visitor: Hey, this has cheese on it!

CM: Sorry, we don't have any without - so I just got you one with cheese.

Visitor: But I can't eat it!

CM: Oh, well wait here while I get you some other item you most likely didn't even want... 

CM's should ALL be held to the same standard of service onstage OR backstage you know what I mean? After all, we all get paid the same crappy wage, we should work just as hard for it anyway.

The good news is that costuming has gotten better during January. Cynthia inevitably found out about the nightmare that CM's were enduring and she was "furious", to quote a senior operations manager. Casting stopped sending all the new CM's inside the berm, and costuming began training honest to goodness new-hires this past week. They were simply short dozens of people over the holidays. 

More changes are in the works too, a barcode system will be used for all costume pieces, and every piece will be scanned out so that they actually know who has what and when it was issued and ultimately returned. Costuming had wanted a system like this for years to be able to track what pieces and sizes need to be replenished with new items, but they were never allocated the money for it. 

As it is now, they take inventory by simply eye-balling the racks of clothing on a slow day when not much is checked out and saying "Well, it looks like we need more Rafts shorts in the middle sizes, and more French Market busboy aprons, and some Indy spats, and some... etc., etc." They had been using that simple reordering system for decades, but with the modern budget constraints it is now horribly inefficient.

There are also tentative plans to offer new CM's the luxury of keeping a personal locker on-property. The new costume building has thousands of "shift lockers" that must be cleared out by the CM at the end of their shift. Any CM who has hired in since September only receives a lock to be used on a shift locker. They have to bring their work shoes, lock and any personal care items to and from work with them every day. 

They must wait in line for a costume at the beginning of their shift, and they must return the costume at the end of their shift. They can keep nothing on property. 

This shift locker concept is the Achilles heel that forced so many CM's into the costuming lines over the holidays. Older CM's all have their own locker in which they keep shoes, personal items, the next days costume, etc. in them. If the newer CM's can have a permanent locker, there will be less day to day pressure on the costume issue windows. 

And by the way, those silly and useless "land" signs above the issue windows have never returned and CM's are still waiting in the bank teller line set up with temporary poles and rope. Costuming is also now open 3 hours past park closing, instead of the prior 2 hours.

The question now is, where will an additional locker facility be located for Disney's California Adventure [the new park, DCA for short] Cast Members [CMs]?

What is disturbing is the lack of rack space in the new costuming building. There is very little or no space left for any DCA costumes. The building was supposed to be big enough to hold both Parks' costumes. There were going to be 3 long rows of costume racks left empty to wait for DCA costumes in 2001. However, right now there are *no* rows left open for DCA costumes. 

DCA's costume menu has been expanded in the last year to 52 separate costumes. They have no idea right now where they are going to put them when it comes time to start issuing DCA costumes in a year.

Disneyland's Safety Department came out and did a study after several Costuming CM's complained about work conditions in the new building. They found that the costuming CM's now walk more than the CM's in custodial! And the height of the racks is dangerous for the shorter CM's. 

The new building is large, with men's and women's costumes all together. Oftentimes a costuming CM will disappear into the racks for up to 5 minutes before returning with a costume because they have to wander all over the first floor.

Previously in the old building, there were 19 windows for men and women split into department and work description. For instance, a Merchandise Hostess used to go to her window and the costuming CM would have all the possible costumes for that hostess just behind them in 2 or 3 short rows. Now the costumes are spread all over the place in one large stockroom and it's up to the Costuming CM's to hunt high and low for over a hundred costuming combinations. It is very inefficient.

TDA [Team Disney Anaheim - the execs out back] hired an outside professional moving company to move all the costumes to the new building last September. It cost TDA less money that way than to use the unionized Disney warehousemen and the costuming CM's. 

As anyone who has moved into a new house can tell you, the contracted movers messed many things up. There are a lot of costume pieces that have simply disappeared or are lost in mislabeled packing boxes. It was quite a nightmare the first month, and it still creates many headaches for costuming.

Although this all seems like it only pertains to CM's and wouldn't affect visitors, it actually does affect them and the Parks' operation. As previously mentioned, the holiday costuming delays reduced capacity at rides, shops and restaurants during the afternoon shift changeover because hundreds of CM's were routinely stuck in 30 to 45 minute lines at costuming. 

Cash registers, order windows, and Attraction positions went unfilled for periods of time during the Holiday afternoons while the CM's were delayed at costuming. Money was lost that it seems the Disney Company so badly needs right now.

Because it is so easy now to leave the property with costumes, there is a shortage of sizes and presentable clothing for many costumes. And all those costumes that have left the property and are now hanging in Southern California closets, garages and dorm rooms are simply gone, never to return. 

And many costume pieces never made the move to the new building in the first place. Remember the lacy little maid hats with the bat on them that the girls at the Haunted Mansion used to wear? Those were called "Bat Hats", and you will be hard pressed to find a Haunted Mansion CM wearing them now. The box they were packed into by the professional movers disappeared and costuming no longer is able to issue them to Haunted Mansion hostesses. It's another little detail lost, and it's sad.

People keep asking - why did they have to break something that was working so well? Sadly that's the Pressler way - he first has to break it, then finally end up returning to the way it was done after thousands / millions of dollars are wasted showing that 45 years of doing something was pretty much on the money in the first place.

Let's talk about Fastpass. Cynthia Harriss [park president] loves it and wants it on all major rides, and she wants it up and running yesterday! However, there are problems inherent to overlaying 21st century virtual queues onto a 20th century park. 

Matterhorn Fastpass has been scrapped for now, due to relatively short waits anyway. Space Mountain is definitely up in the air. It may lose its Fastpass as soon as a couple more major rides offer it. Autopia is still a go to offer Fastpass at least during it's initial opening phase. 

Fastpass at Splash
Fastpass at Splash Mountain.

Splash Mountain will have it's ticket machines moved away from the entrance barn in Critter Country. They are seriously considering placing them at the entrance to Critter Country near the Haunted Mansion exit. 

The Splash Fastpass was very popular, however it creates big traffic jams on very busy days. On one busy day just before Christmas, Critter Country had to be closed off to visitor access for over an hour because there were too many people milling around instead of waiting in line. 

It was complete gridlock for a time, and City Hall recorded over 20 complaints due to the congested situation. City dwellers could probably deal with it, but if were a tourist from a small town it would have been scary for you. 

The next day, several CM's were posted in Critter Country to help keep traffic moving. They remained thru New Years Day.

In 1997 Paul Pressler cut the budget for the Country Bear Christmas show so that only one of the two theaters could be changed over to the Holiday version in November. One theater plays the Christmas version and one theater remains the Vacation Hoedown. 

With Fastpass nearby, the Country Bears were extremely popular, but no one wanted to see the summer Vacation show. So, huge lines formed outside the full lobby and extended over the covered bridge, blocking traffic even more. 

Meanwhile, the Vacation show automatically played to a theater that had 10 or 20 people at most in it for each show, while the lobby was full to capacity with Guests waiting for the popular Christmas show in the adjoining theater. Several times a day the Vacation show would play to a completely empty theater while the lobby was full of Guests in a holiday mood who only wanted to see the Christmas show.

Country Bear CM's had grumbled about this blatant cheap-out for the last three years, but Fastpass at Splash Mountain finally forced the issue. Plans are already afoot so that next year a few extra thousand dollars can be found to redress the second Bears theater for the Christmas show.

Indy has created endless headaches while they try and figure out how to wedge Fastpass in there. The lawyers are demanding that every rider view the seat belt safety movie shown in the final room before the station. But that would mean riders would still be waiting 10 or 15 minutes to board, and Marketing refuses to consider that type of wait "Fastpass." And what happens to the stand-by riders who could get very claustrophobic waiting in the queue caves and narrow passageways for over an hour? 

Adventureland is already crowded on even moderate attendance days. What will happen when you stream hundreds of extra visitors into Adventureland that would have been waiting in line? If Fastpass does come to Indy (and Cynthia wants it there very badly) it will mean the savior of the Tiki Room and a fully staffed Jungle Cruise for the time being. Fastpass has already saved the Country Bear Christmas show for next year. Perhaps a rumored Holiday version of the Tiki Room with "Mele' Kalikemaka" and some Beach Boys style Christmas songs isn't out of the question?

Fastpass has proven it can work in most cases, now they are just weighing the options to see where and how it goes next. The plans will constantly be changing, and it may be 2 or 3 years before folks see exactly what Fastpass' role will be at older Parks like Disneyland. 

They have gone back to the drawing board for DCA queues, pre-shows and waiting areas, and Fastpass will feel right at home there however.

Speaking of the Tiki Room, has anyone noticed something missing out front? The big bamboo shelter that housed the attraction's marquee and the outrigger canoe filled with flowers is gone. Tiki Room CM's arrived at work Saturday the 8th to discover the entrance structure was leaning very noticeably. [This after last year's collapse of the canoe.]


The marquee is missing at Tiki Room.

When they investigated they found that the wood supports had simply rotted away and the structure had collapsed against the juice bar and turnstile overnight. The Tiki Room was closed for the day and several CM's and barricades were set up around it. The next day the show was reopened, but Guests were brought in thru the exit. Finally, the structure was removed overnight. 

Facilities has promised Adventureland attractions that it will be rebuilt and reinstalled. Let's hope they don't let it just sit around until most people forget about it or give up hope. You know if there had been Santa Ana winds, it may have easily collapsed during the day when the Tiki Room lanai was full of people waiting for the next show!

It should be noted that Tiki Room attendance figures are 10 - 12% above previous year figures since Adventureland managers separated the Tiki Room from the Jungle Cruise break rotation - and put the Tiki Hosts and Hostesses back in the flowered dresses and hula shirts and positioned them at the turnstile so they may bid "Aloha" to passing visitors. It's funny how a little detail like that can make a big difference in attendance. Maybe even saving an attraction.

Plans are being made to refurbish Splash Mountain and update the lighting in the attraction. Disneyland's lighting is much dimmer and murkier than Orlando's version. An updated lighting package would better highlight the many animatronics that easily go unnoticed presently.

People should note the care now being given to Tom Sawyer's Island. They now have a carpenter assigned to the Island full time. He had been pulled off of that assignment over a year ago, and the Island quickly fell into disrepair. A facilities manager told CMs last year, "I don't want to spend any money on that island if WDI is going to just tear it up in a year anyway." 

Now lots of hand railings have been replaced, the barrel bridge has been repaired, and they had Injun Joes cave closed the last few weeks for painting, cleaning and re-lamping. They will also be getting two new rafts later this Spring. 

No word yet on the burning cabin or the suspension bridge though. It does appear that WDI's plans for the Island have been changed, and it may remain the same for a while now.

Someone asked and I did find out that Paul Yeargin [head attractions guy] and other senior managers are aware of this site. Although it's blocked from Disneyland workstation computers, perhaps they have it unblocked, or maybe they are just reading it at home? 

Interestingly, while this site cannot be accessed, everyone can easily pull up the X-rated "Flash Mountain" website.  

Nothing like getting the priorities straight there eh? ;)

The four designated smoking areas have changed. They now are:

1) Outside the park's main entrance
2) Near Esmeralda's Cottage at the back of Big Thunder Trail
3) Spanish Fountain / Train viewing pad near Haunted Mansion 
4) Upper level of Plaza Pavilion dining area

The Tomorrowland Train Station is no longer a smoking area.

All foreign guide maps, generic, and dated English guide maps will have a "At Your Service" blurb with the new policy, and the dated guide maps will have a symbol at the four spots that smoking is OK. There will also be signage at the Main Entrance, at the Tram Drop-Off areas, and at the four locations themselves. 

The new wording of the new smoking policy in the Disneyland Today handout is as follows:

For the comfort of all of our guests, Disneyland is a non-smoking park. Smoking is restricted to designated areas only. Refer to park signage for designated smoking locations, or ask a Cast Member for assistance.

See you at the park everyone...


D-I-G Update 1/17/00 - Resident Salute has another ticket available / A not so happy new year - for both the park and some Disney employees in other parts of the company / Frequent Mousing Miles? / Worst Corporate Board in America - Business Week makes it two years in a row / Costuming problems continue / 45th Anniversary a bit of a let down?

A quick note before getting started here:  

I was truly saddened to hear about Imagineer / Animator Marc Davis passing away last week.  [For those of you who didn't know who he was, here's a link to a Yahoo / Business Wire obit on him for you, a photo is also included below.]

Marc Davis publicity photo
For a larger image of this Marc Davis photo, select this link to go to it.

Marc was one of Walt's "nine old men" who at his urging branched out from animation into the parks, and in a long stellar career he not only gave us the very memorable Tinkerbell and Cruella, but also dreamed up a Caribbean seaside town full of party hearty Pirates too, among many other adventures at Disneyland.

In recent years he was quite outspoken about how the parks were run under the Pressler / Greene / Eisner regime, and he never held back from letting go a pointed barb or two about how they could restore some quality back to things.

The loss of Marc makes for one less voice on the customer's behalf to remind the folks in charge now about how important the upkeep of quality is to the Disneyland experience. 

My deepest condolences go out to Alice, his life and work partner, on this sad loss.

Another Resident salute discount ticket is available:

A heads up about another discount available to local residents was kindly provided by reader Cathy A. from San Diego:

We discovered a new discount this weekend that's not listed on your D-I-G site, and I thought you might want to add it. 

An alert CM noticed we were buying 1-day resident passes for the adults and a 2-day MKC ticket for the kid. She deduced that we were all coming back a second time and offered us 2-day resident passes for $45. Since this saved our family of three $42, we gladly accepted.

This discount is not being advertised and the CM said she only learned about it when another guest asked for it; so you might have to ask the CMs to ask their supervisor if they don't know about it. The 2nd day can be used any time up to May 17, 2000; unlike the regular 2-day passports that have to be used within a week. 

Thanks Cathy!  I know the D-I-G readers will appreciate that info too.

Finally, let's get to an update shall we?

I know, it took me long enough - but as you know from past comments I've made, I've been pretty busy on a major project.  Hopefully soon it will be on its way.

The new year has finally settled in - and the power is still on, our ATM cards still work and everywhere you look there are fire sale prices on electrical generators and canned food.

Welcome to the year 2000 everyone, and despite all the predictions, it turns out that it's just like 1999.  Well, except for the cost of living, which keeps going up.  Rest assured that Disneyland is doing its part to see the new year in not only with higher ducats, but with more increases on the way soon in other areas of the park, such as food and merchandise. 

The company is suffering from even more severe profit problems, which will be detailed later, and they are continuing to squeeze those cash cow parks to produce even more.  No wonder those merchandise events keep getting more and more expensive... 

New Year's was a bit of a fizzle most places it seems, even at Disneyland...

A common lament now being heard in the tourism industry is how Y2K turned out to be a disappointment for most businesses.  Expensively lavish concerts, trips and parties were canceled left and right world-wide as people decided to celebrate the new year by staying home with friends and family.

Apparently the tourism industry as a whole forgot the 1984 L. A. Olympics - an event that was so over-hyped / priced that pretty much everyone decided to avoid the crowds and save a few bucks - leaving only the locals to show up.

The park honchos pretty much knew they weren't exempt from that general mood this year when they found attendance New Year's eve at noon was less than 45,000 people - thankfully swelling up to around 70,000 as the midnight hour approached.  [They were nowhere near the numbers for the last Electrical Parade as an example.]  

As a result, people were allowed in and out of the park all day with no re-entry problems, and there was plenty of parking.  Head dynamo Cynthia Harriss was also spotted all over the place - both day and night - making sure things ran smoothly.  Good for her, unlike Pressler's few playtime forays into the park when he was in charge, Cynthia is always seen working the crowds and doing the company business.  She's a good person to have in charge there.

The one big problem the park did run into with the crowd staying within the berm all day [concerned about re-admission] was the overwhelming of all the food facilities.  Park honchos clearly saw that lots of folks do eat out of the park on a normal day [to save a few bucks if nothing else] with the increased business they got that day.  

Hmm, maybe, just maybe, they can look and learn from this a bit, and try to find a way to keep more visitors in house by offering broader pricing, in particular with a renewed focus on the lower end of scale cost-wise?  I can dream, can't I?

It came to my attention that more than a few people noticed as midnight came close that Anaheim Police SWAT-like teams were patrolling around the roofs of Main St. overlooking the biggest crowd in the hub area - just in case anything may have happened.  It seems that the park in the week before had apparently gotten more than the normal number of firebrand kooks calling with threats leading up to the evening and they thankfully took no chances.

Disneyland visitors on New Years Eve were given a special "glow stick" with their party hat and horn that night. They made a park wide announcement just before midnight and everyone was instructed to activate their glow stick and make a special Millennium wish. 

To the visitor it seemed designed to be a typically Disney park wide emotional "Millennium Moment." But, the thousands of glow sticks were also to come in handy at 12:01 AM if the power went out, all heck broke loose, and the Park would have been evacuated. Clever thinking, huh?

Most of the glow sticks ended up floating in the Rivers of America - with Fantasmic crews worried about them getting in the way of the show.  They went ahead anyway - the only concession being they didn't do the Monstro tale splashes.  It was felt that the bubbling up of the gas for the flames would move most of the sticks away from the fire effects. 

Here's an interesting comment from someone about something new the park was trying out during the holidays:

Never fear, the SuperGreeter is here! There is a new type of CM on the scene nowadays. In a test over the Holidays, several areas of the Park were given a "SuperGreeter." 

A SuperGreeter is an Attractions Host or Hostess who has excellent Guest Service skills. They roam their area helping visitors take pictures, answering questions, handing out maps, offering touring tips, etc. 

They have a radio and can call Custodial, Security, or any other department if a problem arises out in their area. The Attraction Leads can call on the SuperGreeter to assist a visitor who needs help or has a problem that can't be solved without leaving their ride. It was extremely popular with everyone.

Kudos to park management for coming up with that one.  Someone must have stopped by the local Wal-Mart and got the idea from them.  ;)

Fastpass was up and running at all four attractions during the holidays, and was popular with the visitors who used it on busy days. It was working very well at Splash Mountain and Roger Rabbit, and working reasonably well in it's temporary location at Small World Holiday. The only real complaints for Fastpass at Small World, Splash Mountain and Roger Rabbit came from the people who didn't use it and got stuck in the Standby line. 

The Space Mountain Fastpass however was another story, with many problems that may not be easily solved. When they moved the Space Mountain entrance to the old Space Place ramps during the 1998 Tomorrowland rehab, it made the entrance to the attraction small and easily congested. Now that they've added Fastpass, it became a real mess!

The signage at the entrance is confusing and inadequate, and the flow of Standby and Fastpass lines was very congested and easily overwhelmed. If the old Speed-ramps hadn't been taken out for the New Tomorrowland and Cosmic Waves, Fastpass could probably have worked much better at Space Mountain. 

But the way it was set up during the holidays, Fastpass at Space Mountain is most likely doomed. The rumors of its demise vary from now, to when the Matterhorn gets Fastpass later in the Spring. 

More about Fastpass later on in this update...

Here's something interesting, from what I understand hotel bookings suffered all throughout the Anaheim resort area, but the Disneyland Hotel / Pacific had a rather unusual problem - lots of customers with paid up [and non-refundable] reservations just didn't bother to show up.  It even prompted a few offers of free stays to some top customers since the rooms weren't going to be used anyway.

But as unusually low as New Year's attendance was - the park more than made up for it with the very successful Christmas promotion drawing record crowds in two months leading up to, and the few days after, New Year's.  

As many of you found out from your own visits and wrote me rather unhappily - what normally used to be a slow attendance period for the park, [in particular the two weeks before Christmas], was turned into a rather busy period with some weekends rivaling the numbers normally pulled only in the actual week between Christmas and New Years.

Pressler was right, with a savvy ad campaign and lots of effort in park, they got to own Christmas just like he wanted.  And unlike Knott's three week-long Halloween promotion, Disneyland gets two months out of it.

What's next?  The less than fresh Christmas parade may be retired and a new edition may be dreamed up, and there have been murmurs of another attraction getting a holiday makeover.  

Rumors of Pirates getting some holiday elements notwithstanding, the most likely candidate seems to be the Tiki Room, [as Fab has mentioned on her own site] once they get it overhauled a bit.  Most likely one of the other lands will also get the deluxe holiday decor, such as ToonTown and New Orleans Square did this past year.  Any bets on if it will be Fantasyland or Tomorrowland?

Hopefully they won't go too overboard with Christmas decor and end up with a park that will give Jan and Paul Crouch's [the host of Trinity Broadcast Network] Christmas City in Irvine a run for the money.  ;)

Biggest complaints heard from the D-I-G readers this holiday season:  "All the merchandise events are getting too expensive. Why won't they do some cheaper ones every once in a while?" and "The park was way too crowded this year!"

The first one Cynthia Harriss can address rather easily with a few $25 and $50 priced events every once in a while.  They don't have to be as elaborate as the expensive ones - and they can offer some lower priced event specific merchandise too.  One cheaper one for every five or so deluxe events would go a long way to make amends with the consumer base.

Toad Pin
This Mr. Toad Weathervane Pin presented in a small tin is an affordable collectible at $14, we need more of these types of items don't you think?

The second complaint Paul Pressler and Michael Eisner are working hard to make sure gets ignored.  And don't think Fastpass [which they are pitching as the solution for all those crowds] will remain free - the ultimate goal is to eventually make it only available with a deluxe priced ticket.  That's why the scanning of the tickets is key element as to how it will work.  

Imagineer Tony Baxter has sort of danced around this subject a bit in his talks - what he's been basically saying is that the thinking at Disney now is to try and offer more variety in pricing with different perks and privileges kicking in at different cost levels.  This kind of pricing will allow them to get even higher admission prices more frequently depending on what new perks they can come up with.

In the next couple of years it may work out something like this:  

Want to just get in the door? - "That's $50 a head please, sorry if the ticket booth line is so long, we're doing our best here.  Move on please."  

Don't want to wait in lines and use Fastpass? - Now it's $75 a body.  What a deal eh?

Would you like a reserved front and center seat for all the shows too - such as Fantasmic and Animazement? - Get that $100 bill out for each person.  

How about complimentary Valet parking, guaranteed reserved seating for all your meals and a lovely parting gift for coming to visit the happiest place on earth? - Better use your AmEx card to charge that $150 for each loved one.

Of course, since this is your child we're talking about here, you do want things just right for them so they have those ultra special once-in-a-lifetime Disney memories.  

Go the whole hog then with a Premium package, which includes a private character visit [you choose which Princess you want in advance of course] a Club 33 style dining experience and your very own concierge type available either in person beside you or with a touch of the supplied cell phone that handles all arrangements for you as your day progresses.  Isn't $300 a head a mere pittance when you're making special memories such as these?  ;)

The above is just some educated guesswork on my part - for now at least.

Travel agents / business partners disappointed with the 45th promotion?

Disneyland has started promoting the 45th Anniversary, with a character-based campaign left over from the 40th - which they had switched at last minute to the 40 Years of Adventure theme to take advantage of the then new Indy ride.

45th decor
The Mickey shaped fireworks design shown on this lamp post plaque is what they will attempt to do in the new pyro show. 

Disney makes life hard and cheap for travel agents as it is - but this year especially they don't have anything new to talk about since they've been cutting back on the leading edge attractions.

"It's the same old story - my clients want to know what's new, and a parade and an anniversary theme just doesn't cut it." one quipped to me in an e-mail.

News people, despite a lovely press kit the park has issued, feel pretty much the same way. "Disney used to give away cars [for the 35th].  Now they just push merchandising events" one local news personality said.  Referring to the very sad Bob Hope Christmas launch - "Is some other way too old personality again going to cut a ribbon for this, so we can watch them drool again on the late news?  Nah.  No story there."

Ouch.

Shirt one

Shirt two
As you can see new 45th logo t-shirt designs [photos above and below] focus on the characters.

I've been holding back on writing about the anniversary myself because I've been less than overwhelmed by what they've been promising so far.

We get Mickey back on the Matterhorn - Great, he used to do that before, and yes I am glad it's back.  We get fireworks earlier in the year.  Yes, we used to get that before.  We get tons of merchandise events.  Great.

But where's the new E-ticket attraction?  Why do we only get one parade this year, instead of the two we got before?  These are questions a lot of folks are asking this season.

One four-fingered glove gives while the other takes away...

If you live in the L.A. area you've probably heard the huge radio ad campaign Disneyland is running right now.  No, not the one announcing the anniversary and the Resident Salute discount, it's the even bigger effort aggressively trying to recruit new employees for the resort.

Thanks to some of the lowest wages offered by a major employer in the Orange County marketplace, and a Byzantine work scheduling process that gives way too many employees much too few wage hours to live on, in a tight labor market Disneyland is begging to fill jobs.  It's expected to get worse as the new park comes on line in the next year too, as even most McDonalds pay more and provide steadier schedules than Disney does.

Here's an interesting view of what's been going on with all this:

As many of you noticed the park was severely understaffed this year for the holidays. Simply several years of 2% unemployment are really taking their toll. Custodial, Foods and backstage support areas are hardest hit. But Attractions, which usually gets the first dibs on the most sparkling applicants, is also feeling a real pinch. 

Fastpass when running utilizes several dozen CM's a day. Just as many CM's work at Fastpass outside the attractions as are required inside to run the respective rides. They basically doubled this past season the daily staffing for Space Mt., Splash Mt. and Small World, and tripled the staffing for Roger Rabbit. 

Rides are open longer now too, [good news] which soaks up even more hours. On the weekends and during the Holidays the Canoes, which officially weren't supposed to be running, use 20 CM's. Considering that big E Tickets like Pirates, Star Tours and Small World ran at full capacity with 7 to 9 CM's, 20 CM's is a lot. Needless to say, massive overtime was available all over the Park - with CM's able to work 7 days a week all during Christmas season. 

It used to be a real honor to work at Disneyland, and hordes of bright, clean-cut young people would apply. Now, for 7 bucks an hour, there aren't a lot of people who are willing to put up with Shuttle delays, costuming delays and the past few years of tarnished magic when they could just go work at In-N-Out Burger or the local mall for a higher starting wage and without all the daily Disneyland hassle. 

The terrifying part of this is that in one year there will be a new Disney Park, a new Disney Hotel and Downtown Disney that will need SIX THOUSAND new CM's to staff it all! Where will they come from?

While the park goes begging for bodies, up the freeway in Burbank they continue to slash jobs.  Disney Interactive is the latest unit to cut positions this past week - laying off some people who just started working there less than ninety days ago.  More cuts are expected in the film division [among others] as Peter Schneider takes over the reins from the uber-frustrated Joe Roth who finally just threw in the towel trying to cope with Eisner's shenanigans.  [More about all this is discussed a few paragraphs below also.]

With Schneider now in charge of the filmed output, and also overseeing the theatrical division, people are wondering if he's just walked away from the one area of oversight he practically threw fits [he can be a hot head] to get, in-park entertainment.  The new upcoming 45th Anniversary parade should tell the story here, which we will see. 

Here's an interesting tidbit from today's Yahoo / Reuter's news feed:

Disney Said Planning Frequent Customer Program

The Walt Disney Co. will unveil a frequent-customer program this summer aimed at boosting brand loyalty from its theme parks, movies and toys to its broadcast and cable television outlets, USA Today reported in Tuesday editions.

Disney executives hoped to strengthen the brand's relationship with its best customers by offering them discounts on home videos and other merchandise, access to preferred gifts, and preferred seats at its Broadway and theme park shows, the paper reported.

Visit this link for the rest of the story, which details that the company has had two consecutive years of declining earnings, and that in the past year they dropped 22% - with four of Disney's five main business segments having down or flat years. [Parks is the only one up.] It also mentioned that they plan to issue wallet-size cards for customers / members to present to get credit for a purchase. [Think Vons / Ralph's Supermarket Club Cards here folks.] More credit will be offered for feedback on surveys and such.

Geeze didn't we all discuss this same subject in a newsgroup over two years ago?  How sad that the company continues to a] let things get so bad they have to put in place a loyalty program, and b] they allow it to be seen by the media and public as an effort to try and pump up a sagging business.  Sigh.

But what do you expect from a CEO who says publicly about the new Anaheim park [quoted from the Annual Report, bold type is my emphasis]:

Disney’s California Adventure will offer guests a day-long immersion into many of the wonders of the Golden State. But, we are producing this all-new magic with a number of cost-effective tricks up our sleeve. As with the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (which, by the way, has been extremely popular with our guests), a number of attractions are similarly being built by integrating third-party-provided technologies with Disney showmanship and innovations in order to create dazzling entertainment experiences at far less cost than if we had designed them completely from the ground up.

One need only look at the carnival that has risen in the old parking lot to see how painfully true the above statement is.  It's so lackluster that even fellow theme park industry brethren generally acknowledge that California Adventure comes across as "an all-time low, almost shockingly so, for Disney" - but Eisner is probably right that most people will buy into it lock, stock and barrel because it's got the Disney name plastered all over it.

Another story comes to mind here, Business Week's latest issue about the Best and Worst corporate boards in American business Disney yet again rates the worst, for the second year in a row. The quote below is what was said in the main article about the company [again the bold type is mine] :

On the bottom half of the list, Disney's sagging fortunes have turned up the pressure on CEO Eisner, who has tried to soothe critics by making several governance changes. Eisner put two new independent directors on his board in 1998 when two insiders resigned. He agreed to annual elections of all directors by 2001 and allowed an anti-takeover poison-pill plan to expire last year. He also changed the makeup of the audit, compensation, and executive development committees, ensuring they are composed entirely of outsiders.

Even so, Eisner has steadfastly refused to rid Disney's board of his many friends and acquaintances. The board still includes Eisner's attorney, his architect, the principal of an elementary school once attended by his children, and the president of a university that received a $1 million Eisner donation. That's why many view the changes as token gestures, rather than real reform.  "Any improvements are a step in the right direction, but Disney has not leaped forward in a brave new direction,'' says Ann Yerger, director of research for the Council of Institutional Investors. Eisner refused to comment, but a company spokesman rebuffs the continued complaints. "There comes a point when you have to say that we have to make the decisions about the company,'' he says.

For more on this, you can visit Business Week online - although sadly only subscribers can access the entire article.  But if you have AOL - Business Week content is free to you and you can use the following AOL ONLY link to get to it if you are reading this site on their software: 01/24/00 The Best and Worst Corporate Boards

Also the Reuters / Yahoo News article which quotes quite a bit of the Business Week story, and also does contain the actual rankings can be accessed via this link without any restrictions for now.

So are there more layoffs looming in Burbank?  

Quite simply, yes.  The money is not flowing in as they had hoped for.  For example, results are in for DVD sales this holiday season, [something Eisner had touted as a major new revenue stream] and retailers report they aren't selling in the numbers Disney expected.  

Did they glut the market with so many titles all at once this past holiday season?  People at retailers such as Blockbuster think so.  Adding insult to injury on the product was the total lack of special features offered on the discs - it was the number one complaint from the customers that did buy them.

Meanwhile Walt Disney World management types are grumbling over two price hikes in admission media in less than nine months. "They make us look desperate with those kinds of moves" one said.  "And customers do notice, no matter what Eisner thinks." 

The costuming problems continue...

The following note arrived during the holidays:

The system for getting a costume at the new Cast Costuming building collapsed! It was anarchy for several weeks, and is now only barely managed chaos. Casting hasn't been able to hire anyone new for Costuming in months. All the new hires they can get are going out into the Park itself. 

For weeks and weeks now the line to get your costume has been averaging about 15 to 25 minutes. There have been several weekends when the line was up to 45 or 50 minutes long. Rides, shops and restaurants have had to reduce their capacity during the afternoon shift changeovers because their CM's were all out waiting for their costumes. Visitors are waiting in longer lines in the afternoon because the CM's are all waiting in line too out at Costuming.

When the new building opened last September the costume issue windows were split into "Lands", with signs above each window designating which area of the Park you were working in that day. There were no formal queues or ropes to contain the lines however, because the designers assumed there would only be a few CM's waiting at a time at each window.

The new costuming building is directly adjacent to the Primeval World show building, so there isn't much space there anyway, just an alley about 12 feet wide. When Costuming became severely understaffed in the Fall, the lines grew into mobs of dozens of CM's pushing at each window in a very confined space. 

One recent Saturday in early December the crowd at Costuming was particularly immense. The wait was around 45 minutes, and all windows were jammed. CM's were packed in there like sardines and stressed out about getting their costume and getting out to their work location on time. 

Finally, a fistfight broke out between two male CM's who felt that one of them was cutting into a nonexistent line. People were shoved and pushed as the crowd tried to get out of the way. The Costuming managers jumped over the counter to try and break it up. Security and the Park's Duty Manager were called to the scene.

The Duty Manager that day was particularly disgusted with the conditions the CM's were being forced to endure as a condition of employment, and he went behind the counter to help out. The Duty Managers daily report is always put on Cynthia's desk the next morning. The fighting CM's were terminated.

Changes have since been made at Costuming. The very next day after the fight, the snazzy "Land" signs above each window were ripped out of their brackets and taken down. A single switchback queue was put up with temporary poles and rope, much like at a bank where you wait for the next available teller. 

This more equitable system is what many CM's had suggested all along, but Costuming had touted the new "Land" windows so much during their grand opening that they were reluctant to admit the huge mistake.

Although there is now an orderly line instead of maddening crowds, the wait for costumes has not improved. Costuming is still short 20 CM's, which is roughly 40% of their staffing. The line on the afternoon of December 11th stretched from the Costuming building all the way to the CM entrance at Harbor House, which is a 50 or 60 yard walk. Delays of 30 to 45 minutes are still common in the mornings and during shift changeovers. 

On a recent evening when the Park was open until midnight, the line was so long and CM's were getting so upset that Costuming managers tried an interesting approach. CM's in groups of ten were allowed back into the racks of clothing to find their own costumes! However, since so many costumes have been stolen recently, CM's were directed to find whatever they could find to keep them warm.

That's right, there are a lot of costume pieces stolen, and it is getting harder and harder to receive a proper and complete costume. CM's in many areas have given up on receiving the correct sizes months ago now. 

You may notice in the evenings that Critter Country CM's are wearing the Indy corduroy jackets instead of the fur lined coats, Pirate CM's are wearing the Mark Twain black coats instead of the striped Pirate coat, Main Street CM's are wearing the Fantasyland full length coats, ODV is wearing whatever they can get their hands on, etc. 

With the new shuttle setup and the new Costuming building located outside the berm and beyond the Disneyland Security checkpoint, it is very easy to take whatever costume you check out home with you. 

And Costuming is in such a state of chaos that they often don't know what costumes you have, or are supposed to have. It's a vicious cycle that got worse and worse during October and November. 

Many CM's have quietly bragged about the complete costumes they now have hanging in their closets at home. Haunted Mansion suits and dresses, complete Railroad conductor costumes, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor dresses, Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Indy, and Thunder Mountain costumes, and any sort of coat or jacket are all favorites. Tiki Room and Toontown costumes are popular targets because they are so wonderfully kitschy.

But, anything with a Disneyland label on the inside has sentimental value and potential for someone. There has been a rumor, emphasis on the word "rumor", that two CM's were under investigation for selling $35,000 worth of stolen Disneyland costume pieces on Ebay. 

Several days after the fistfight at Costuming, Disneyland Security guards boarded each Shuttle bus as it arrived at Harbor House and told CM's that if they were taking their costumes home via "FastTrack" that they would have to get a new sticker at Costuming to put on their Disneyland ID's. 

CM's were informed that a Disneyland Security guard would be stationed at the Shuttle stop from now on to check CM's for errant costumes being taken onto the shuttles. That security check lasted only two days. 

Reportedly, it was a maneuver to "scare" the CM's a bit. Security doesn't have the budget or any CM's to spare to station a guard at the Shuttles all day long. And, it would be very easy to simply walk out onto Harbor Blvd. with a costume in a bag. When the line for the Shuttles back to the CM parking gets long at the end of the day, some CM's already walk the six blocks back to their cars anyway.

Sometimes when the Shuttles are really backed up at the end of the night, and the wait to return to your car is 20+ minutes, masses of CM's flood onto Harbor Blvd. to hike back to the CM parking lot. 

There is simply no way to prevent stealing costumes with the new Costuming building. They took a system that worked wonderfully for over 40 years and threw it out the window. Now they have lost more money in stolen costumes than they could have ever saved with decreased labor at the new, modern Costuming building.

Things got so bad at one point that CMs were being told to sift through the bags of dirty laundry and pull out any items that were not visibly soiled. Those items were then re-used at the windows for CM's, and posed as clean items. 

The reassigned CMs complained, and the unions got involved. Costuming promised to fix it. 

Yet a week or so later the same thing happened to some other reassigned CM's - they were told to pull out non-stained costume pieces and recycle them. It's unclear whether the problem here is manpower or some desire to be cheap and not wash as often, though most believe it's a manpower issue.

Needless to say, the whole situation has been very upsetting to all CM's. It can be so frustrating and depressing to have to wait 15 minutes to ride a crammed shuttle bus to work, only to wait again in a long line to get your costume from an over-worked and foul-tempered Costuming CM.

This does not instill much confidence for DCA and the future. If they can't find an extra 20 people for the new Costuming building, how are they going to staff an entire new Park, Hotel and mall?!? And what type of people will they be hiring to fill the six thousand new positions? It's a very scary thought.

And let's not even discuss the fact that at night, if you position yourself outside the building [which borders the Timon / Simba Tram and public transportation loading areas] and look up you can see reflections of all the CMs changing their clothes clear as day.  

As I was told recently, some enterprising souls have already posted some images from this unintended peep show online on some "Spy-Cam" voyeur sites.  

I get phone calls...

"Hello, is this Al Lutz?'

Speaking.  Who are you?

"I'm [creative names inserted here to protect the way too innocent] (Monique Va-Voom) from the (Engulf and Devour) executive search agency.  Were you the person behind that wonderful 'Promote Paul Pressler' site on the web?"

Why, um... [slightly confused now] yes.  It's a bit redundant now... as you know from reading the site he did get a promotion.  Why, may I ask, are you calling about it?

"Well, we're just doing a little background and wondering what you think of Paul.  He seems to be very good at what he does if people online are trying to get him promoted.  What impressed you about him so much to do that kind of campaign?"

[A light bulb goes off over my head...] 

What impressed me was that he's a great executive, with a long track record of being laser focused on the bottom line.  Is there someone you are calling on behalf of that he can fill the bill for?

"Well, yes, but I can't disclose who it is.  It's a business area Mr. Pressler was in before." 

I won't ask if maybe Mattel needs someone then... 

[I can sense with the tone of voice from the other side at this point I may have hit the nail on the head and she no longer may think this is such a good call to make.]

"Do you think he'd leave ever leave Disney, what are any rumors you may be hearing about all these executives leaving lately?"

I can't really comment on that.  But I think Mr. Pressler would be a sterling asset to any company he worked for.  Did you know he did the Care Bears Movie?  That was his baby.  They Disney Stores did quite well under him too when he ran them.

"That would be a great asset to anyone I would think."

I would think so also.  I wish you, and him luck.

"Thanks for your time."

No problem. [end of call]

I wonder if Pressler knows that Eisner has pretty much told the board of directors that there isn't anyone who could succeed him now working within the company, and that he may have to recruit from outside?

I also wonder how much longer Mattel can go on under its current, rather problematic, leadership.

Hey, I did my part...  ;)

Park Tidbits...

La Petite Patisserie [hidden away in New Orleans Square] will never re-open.  The equipment inside has been carted away and it will soon be used for storage until such time as they can expand the Cafe Orleans onstage kitchen to fill all that space.

They finally are demolishing the Casa Mexicana building - they had to wait until the custodial department backstage moved into the old costuming building before they could go at it.

Ride testing is supposed to start soon at DCA.  Some employees will start to move over to the Paradise Pier and Raft Ride areas soon, maybe in a few weeks.

Want to make a Disneyland Hotel food manager furious?  Show them the following flyer they now have to keep in a tourist brochure rack in the lobby:

 McDonalds coupon

With the new Hook's Pointe turning out to be such a bust for them - they are offering discounted breakfasts now and lunch and dinner is way under projections - this kind of cross promotion is sort of the last thing they need, right?

That should cover bases for now folks, much more stuff is on the way soon, see you at Disneyland!

Thanks!
 

D-I-G Update 1/24/00 - More about the costuming problems / More about Fastpass / Tiki Room Update / Splash Mt. news / Good news about Tom Sawyer Island / Non-smoking policy refined

D-I-G Update 1/17/00 - Resident Salute has another ticket available / A not so happy new year - for both the park and some Disney employees in other parts of the company / Frequent Mousing Miles? / Worst Corporate Board in America - Business Week makes it two years in a row / Costuming problems continue / 45th Anniversary a bit of a let down?

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