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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update

D-I-G UPDATE 5/30/00 - DisneylandBlues returns / Rocket Rod's "rolling rehab" - um, yeah... / Electrical Parade coming back? / How rehab schedules work / More Fastpass info, and yes, it's being abused / Wonderbra Theater gets a new banner and sponsor / When things go wrong...

DisneylandBlues returns

Sadly I had to put back up the DisneylandBlues pages this week - after confirming that all the progress Cynthia has made this past year is now back on hold again thanks to Pressler's and Eisner's ever increasing cutbacks.  

Here's just one of the things that sparked this, from a kind soul:

The Painters working on the Haunted Mansion recently were asked if they were going to paint the second and third floors of the Mansion. Their candid response was:

"No. They could only find enough money in the budget to paint the first floor and the columns. If [they] can scrounge up some money out of the budget later, [they may] come back and paint the rest of the house."

The southern facing facades of the Mansion are peeling and decaying particularly bad on the upper levels. It is clearly visible from the switchback queues, and the guests standing in those switchbacks have nothing to do but stand in the shadow of the grand mansion and look at the peeling paint. 

CLICK HERE for more DisneylandBlues pictures
Pretty ugly isn't it?

And remember the plan to remove the switchbacks entirely in favor of removable poles and chains so that the queue would be wheelchair accessible and the patio could be used for private parties? That was cancelled at the last moment and deemed not a priority by T Irby and Facilities. 

The switchbacks were obviously not in the skimpy Mansion painting budget, and remain badly chipped, peeling and rusted. Even Cynthia's wish of having private parties on the Mansion patio isn't enough to sway the budgeteers. 

I understand the parks in Orlando are now displaying overflowing trashcans and peeling paint too.  At least the guy's consistent.


Rocket Rod's "rolling rehab" - um, yeah...

Rocket Rods will be undergoing an emergency "rolling rehab". The Rods will have staggered opening times later in June. Some days the ride will open at 11:00 AM, sometimes noon, sometimes not until later in the afternoon. Under the guise of "painting", they will be conducting emergency patch jobs to the structural integrity of the track and it's supports.

There will be some actual painting going on while they do the real work however.  WDI and the Chevron people don't want the horribly stained Rocket Rods track to take away from the shiny new Autopia, so the track will be painted in some sections.

Tomorrowland managers had heard that initially the ride was going to be shut down entirely, and the Park would claim it was an "unscheduled rehab" at first, and then never reopen the ride.  The rumor continues on this one, we'll see what happens.  From another kind source:

Also the constant vibrating that the buildings adjacent to the Rocket Rods undergo has really taken it's toll over the last two years. There is no way that under current operations that ride will make it to it's fifth anniversary.

Factor in that the maintenance costs are way off the scale and show no sign of letting up, [At one point they had six cars in the shop out back being worked on, they are a nightmare to maintain from what I understand.] and the ride has a much lower rider capacity than originally planned, and that the ride has a low Satisfaction rating, and you have the 21st century version of the Flying Saucers. 

I take that back. At least the Flying Saucers were fun when they were working and weren't shaking apart the nearby Space Bar.

By the way it now looks like Autopia may soft open as early as the 17th, that's what some folks have been told.


Electrical Parade on the way back?

Remember last update I mentioned that the disappointment with the current 45th parade may lead to an acceleration of the planned return of the Electrical Parade?

There is a weekly report sent Parkwide that mentions all current or planned rehabs thru the end of the fiscal year. A new item just showed up for June's schedule under the Entertainment section; "Night Time Parade production. 6/5/00 - 9/29/00." Could a new night parade be in the works for 2001? 

Something is up.  And that may be good.  

I guess they may also be worried the new park [California Adventure] isn't really going to wow 'em like they thought it would.


How the rehab schedules work:

That brings up something else someone was kind enough to fill me in regarding rehab schedules and the Rehab Page here on the D-I-G: 

Rehab schedules are posted thru the end of the fiscal year. Disney's fiscal year begins the first week of October. So, when a rehab is listed as ending on September 29th, that doesn't necessarily mean that the location will open on the 30th. 

It just means that the budget for the project runs thru the end of the current fiscal year, which is the 29th this year. The rehab may continue into October or later, and be partly budgeted from the following fiscal year. They like to end or start rehabs around October 1st to keep things simpler budget-wise. But many times rehabs that are listed as running thru the end of September continue on into October and the new fiscal year. 

Mouseworks [Main St. Theater] project, and probably the Night Parade project, may fall within that category. Just because it says it ends the 29th, doesn't necessarily mean that it actually ends the 29th. That's just the end of the fiscal year. 


Fastpass tidbits

They are going to try very hard to get Indy Fastpass up and running by the middle of June, a week or so earlier than originally planned. Autopia will have Fastpass from day one, but they want to try and get Indy up and going first.  Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are on the short list for Fastpass before the 2000 Christmas season.

Look for the new option of holding multiple Fastpass times to become available later this summer. Presently, once you get one Fastpass you can't get another at another attraction until your first Fastpass time arrives.

We won't talk about how your old tickets - or how just about anything with a barcode once inserted - can spit out a Fastpass will we?  Don't believe me?  Try your Von's or Ralph's Supermarket cards.  Discounts on selected grocery items AND Fastpass tickets.  Maybe they should figure out how to charge the markets for this tie-in...  ;)  [Also other theme park tickets work too - all it looks for is the bar code.]  Let's hope they attend to this soon - the abuse right now is rampant.


Wonderbra [Fantasyland] Theater gets a new sponsor and [shudder] a new sign...

No, it isn't a robe....
Yes, it looks that bad in person too.

Yes it's hard to read, it's Nestle's Ice Cream.  And no, some 400 lb. cleric did not hang out his robes to dry.  The size of the ugly thing is huge too.  Sigh.


When things aren't going well... do NOT include a preview for your latest animated movie with your new release [Where's the Emperor's New Groove preview that was supposed to be tacked on to Dinosaur?] cut short to less than two months [instead of four to six] your Disney Store merchandise promotion for Dinosaur.  I guess those generic toy Dinos can buy anywhere now fit the bill eh? ...  The big push is for the Tom Stoppard penned [yes, Glen Close asked the famous playwright to fine tune the screenplay] 102 Dalmatians.  They are again pulling out all the merchandising stops on that one. start putting together home video numbers in the Lion King range for Toy Story 2 and bet the bank on that.  That's um, well... risky, isn't it?  What happens when you can't do it twice in a lifetime?

That should do it for now, see you at the park! 


Braverman off of DCA Al's DIG Update
SPECIAL 5/16/00
DCA horror stories - Part II [plus a correction] 
Some good news about the Subs!

Barry Braverman leaves DCA  

The note was cryptic, but boy was it interesting, and it seems to check out:

Braverman's off the Project - Date: 5/16

...we found out that Barry [is ill] and will be leaving the DCA project immediately. Kathy Mangum will be taking over for Barry. There appears to be more here than meets the eye, although nothing can be confirmed at this time. My guess is that Barry is trying to distance himself from DCA at the 11th hour, or at least his body is!

[Who is Barry Braverman?  He was the head Imagineer on the new California Adventure park.  For more information about him, and how we got what you now see going up out there in the old Disneyland parking lot read Jim Hill's excellent five-part series California Mis-Adventure? - What could have been, what should have been - available on this site.]

We've all heard about the internal struggles about this park, and then this week an early [some say surprise] announcement about the opening date was made by Pressler [pushed up I understand about three months from what everyone who was working on the park really wanted] - and this now happens.

Although a personal illness is being given as the official reason for Braverman's being off the project, as you can see above most folks both in and out of the company are wondering if something else is really at work here.  

Speculation ranges from both Eisner and Pressler possibly reconsidering what they had wrought out there in the parking lot and looking to find a scapegoat - to their tiring of hearing more and more people internally voicing their disappointment with this entire project as it apparently is not coming up to snuff.

What's important to remember here is that no matter who calls the shots in these things [Eisner or Pressler] neither will end up taking the blame for any problems that may ensue when this thing opens.  Look for heads to start rolling at WDI if the executive's carnival isn't all that they were hoping it would be.  [It's common knowledge that Imagineering [WDI] got blamed for all the problems in Paris, even though many of the huge cost overruns we directly incurred by Eisner himself.]

Also on a corporate level apparently they are dismayed at the unflattering remarks starting to be made by both the press and financial analysts about some of the moves they've been making lately [in particular the new parks, both DCA and Animal Kingdom out east].  It's one of the reasons Eisner has been trying to court them now whereas he never did before - for example he just led a group of finance analysts around Disneyland this past week. 

Particularly painful as I understand were the following remarks made by the Motley Fool website on 5/16 about Eisner's stunningly out- of- touch "e-mail is the culprit" speech given at a campus commencement this past week.  These kinds of comments hurt stock prices you know:

You see, I follow Disney as part of our new Motley Fool Research. There is a lot to like about Disney right now. But I think the problem is that, this time, Eisner has become a victim of his own otherwise worthy micromanaging. Eisner lives by the anecdote. He often manages that way, too. While numbers show that four million homes now stock a DVD player, he claims he wasn't wowed at the possibilities of Disney's lush film library on the digital format until he took a stroll through an electronics superstore.

He assumes that what he sees we see, or in a more lucrative light, we will eventually see. So if e-mail flashes its pearly whites and goes in for the kill in his world, we're all dead meat. The problem is that it is also too easy, in a movie mogul mindset, to cast a revolutionary breakthrough in communication in the role of a scapegoat.

"I have noticed of late that the intensity of emotions inside our competitive company is higher than usual," Eisner told the grads. "I am convinced this is because of e-mail. Every fight that goes on seems to start with a misunderstanding over an e-mail."

It all makes perfect sense now. The company announced that it will shave $500 million in annual expenses in two years. Budget cuts roughing up morale? No. Blame e-mail. Movie chief Joe Roth bolts facing the prospects of less project funding? No. Blame e-mail. Imagineers flee when the company moves away from new E-ticket attractions in the hopes that fireworks and parades will keep the crowds coming back to its theme parks? Naughty, naughty e-mail. Top shelf executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg and Judson Green fly the coop blaming Eisner's power-hungry ways? Jealously. It's e-mail at play.

How can the leader of a company that is soaring high on How to Be a Millionaire get tripped up by the $100 question? At the same time that Eisner was mistyping, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) was readying to block ABC from 40 hours of programming in select markets during the May Sweeps. Communication might have helped divert the situation. Maybe. Possibly. Lifeline? E-mail.

The original [and complete] editorial is at THIS LINK and is © 2000 by Motley Fool

So, just how out of touch are these execs?  It took them a few weeks of surveys to convince them that the new Fireworks show at Disneyland would be the major push this year for their ad campaign.

Funny, that was readily apparent to anyone there the first night they tested them - as the crowd roared [and even cheered] their approval.  And some of those execs can't be bothered to actually go the show - for example Eisner left early when his special showing was delayed by under half an hour, as did the rest of his executive entourage.

FYI: Alex Stroup and Kevin Yee discuss this DCA issue in their latest column today - Dual reViews.  You may want to stop by and take a gander.


Meanwhile back at the park... more horror stories about DCA - Part II

Think finding one of those scarce bathrooms [as mentioned below] at the new park will be easy?  It won't be.  Why?  Because one of the things they are saving lots of money on in this huge project is signs.  You know, like in signs that tell you where the restrooms are - such as, oh say, Disneyland has?

Like in the malls Pressler adores so much, he expects visitors to stop by a park directory at the entrance or refer to their handout map if they need to locate somewhere to void.  Boy, I sure hope they have HIGH fences around that lagoon...  ;)

By the way, a great way to find out what the current mindset is at Disney about DCA is to ask almost any Imagineer [or pretty much anyone but Eisner and Pressler] about this new park directly.  Almost every single person hems and haws, and generally they make little if any small talk about it.  They don't have much to say. 

Yet ask about the Tokyo DisneySea project [detailed below in the last update] - and people light up - they can't tell you enough about how wonderful this "all new attraction" park will be.  They know at pretty much all levels within the company that the real excitement will be overseas next year, and not here come this winter.


On the subject of last week's update on DCA, reader Turbo kindly writes to make a correction:

Love the site, just wanted to remind you, DCA actually WILL have around 10 or so Animatronics. It's Tough To Be A Bug has 3 (flick, hopper, and the smart talking guy off stage), and Muppet Vision has a few (Orchestra of Penguins, Chef, The Rabbit and the wise cracking guys in the balcony).

Thanks for the kind words Turbo - and yes you are correct.  They have about ten - total.  

Which, if I am right here, is about how many you see in just the first big scene or so in Pirates, right?  ;)


Now, some GOOD news [and trust me it's been very hard to find lately] 

It now looks like the Subs will be returning to Tomorrowland - apparently with a minor re-theming in the caverns and a change over in Sub design to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea / Nautilus look.  There is no word yet if this just means that the Atlantis movie tie-in / make-over concept will be delayed or this will be a permanent make over.

It seems that after all the stink that was made about how expensive the Subs were to operate by that Disney executive we all know and love - guess what?  Those horrific to maintain Rocket Rods ended up making them seem a relative bargain.  Imagine that.

In the past few weeks they have been pulling trucks up to the back area [The themed "Oceanographic Station" you can see from the Monorail when it goes near small world] and it may be that they are working on outfitting the units yet again.  The rest of the Subs are now in the caverns. 

You asked about a Time frame for their return?  Look for the Subs to pop back into operation just about when those Rods disappear - which should be pretty darn soon, considering just how much they cost a day to run.

The new Tomorrowland was supposed to be all about new stuff.  We now are getting an expanded and updated Autopia and Submarine ride, while the Rods go away, Innoventions sits pretty much empty most days, and crowds continue to dwindle down for Star Tours and for the Honey I Shrunk film.  Geeze, it seems the new ended-up getting replaced by the refurbished old here instead.

Let's thank all those at Disneyland that listened and care about the park who pushed hard for the Subs to happen.  These folks seem to think about the customers first, what a novel concept!  :)


That's it for today, short, but well worth the read I hope!  See you at the park.

D-I-G Update 5/10/00 - New executive line-up at Disneyland / Gotta pee?  Gotta wait! ...and more DCA horror stories / Meanwhile, over in Tokyo / More Fastpass / Band to go away here too? / Autopia re-open date keeps moving / Rods going away soon / Another sneaky price increase for AP holders / Pirates event attendance figures / Sharing a reader letter


I get e-mail [part one]...

Al we have not had a in depth update in over a month please give us one I am jonesing

Now now, no more jonesing.  Here's your update...  ;)


New executives for Disneyland

Let's see - let's pretend we are Disney management, and we're shutting down rides early and opening them late to save money - we're making 10 year-olds pay adult admission - and we're probably going to raise admission prices yet again this year.  So what shall we do with all those increased profits folks?  

Hire in yet another layer of management at the park!  Heaven knows under the current way of doing things you can never have enough managers around - who needs all that lower rung staff anyway, right?  ;)  

From an e-mail that took me a few days to confirm:

George Kalogridis (VP of Epcot) is apparently moving to CA to "be the Lee Cockerell out there." (Lee is the level between the Parks & Al Weiss.) It looks like they are restructuring to match WDW, George would report to Cynthia (along with similar heads of HR and support services). Then a VP of each Park, a VP of Downtown Disney, and a VP over Resorts, would report to George. From there, General Managers for each line of business (attractions, merch, food & beverage, a GM for each Resort, etc.) would report to their own VP.

It's a relatively good hierarchy... EXCEPT that this means an entrepreneurial manager (say, in retail) at DCA can sell his / her GM on an idea, and implement it... without any buy-in or say-so from the GM's at DL or the Resorts.

George is very familiar with working in this kind of matrix organization. He currently has 4 GMs that report to him (merch, food & beverage, attractions, and operations.), each of whom also dotted-line report around him to someone in their line of business. Epcot is also set up more by physical region than by line of business -- so all the managers in Innoventions, for example, report to one manager, whether they are retail, food & beverage, or attractions managers.

Why move George? Well, the only job for him here would be to take over for Lee, and George has been something of a "golden boy" for doing things like managing to cut *just* the right things to bring Millennium at EPCOT in at or under budget (sound familiar)? 

Actually, there is far more respect for George than for Pressler, so I wouldn't draw too close of a comparison there. It should be officially announced very shortly. They've already taken Bob Lamb (VP of Animal Kingdom [DAK]) to be on a temporary assignment to get the new Park, Resort, and Downtown Disney [DTD] open (he was on the opening crews of Epcot & the Studios), and recently promoted the head manager of DAK Merc to be the GM of Merch for DCA. A person who used to be HR manager at Epcot (and was most recently with the cruise lines [DCL]) is now the Director of Recruiting at DL... we hear about one or two announcements a week lately about someone else moving to CA.

And people wonder why Eisner says doing anything at the Disney company nowadays is like "turning a ship on a dime."

It should be interesting to see all that Orlando focus out here in Anaheim - and if this new management understands the unique difference in the mix of visitors to both destinations.  i.e. - 60% locals vs. 40% tourists here, as compared to Orlando's 40% locals vs. 60% tourists.


Gotta pee?  Gonna wait - at DCA

The question I have is "HOW did Disneyland get permission to build a two thousand seat theater WITHOUT any bathrooms inside?"  Do they have the city of Anaheim in their pocket or what?

Yes, the Hyperion Theater in California Adventure [DCA] [which daytime will run things like Animazement, and nighttime is supposed to house retired road show productions like Beauty and the Beast to be able to sell hotel packages with] has NO bathrooms... (and no windows and no doors?  Which poses this chilling challenge...)  ;)

Theatergoers [day or night - sun or rain] will have to walk across the way to a set of bathrooms in a nearby building - which apparently saves them quite a bit of money construction- wise.  

Actually the entire park has the dubious distinction of having fewer bathrooms for the amount of area covered than any Disney theme park ever built.  Imagineering has Excel spreadsheets showing this you know.  ;)

What with all those gaily decorated carts hawking beer and margaritas every couple of feet, I guess they better NOT fill up that lagoon ALL the way huh?

Gotta admire that Pressler - saving a dime is paramount to him - he's the one who pushed for this.

Add to this that the Hyperion's lobby is apparently too small to deal with the expected crowds, and that we just may get a re-tooled Animazement in there anyway to kick things off [to save a few bucks].

Talk about your theater of the absurd...  "Welcome to DCA, with attractions you've seen everywhere else, here again for your 40 plus bucks admission. By the way, the bathroom line starts to the right..."  Sigh.


More about DCA...

Remember when I hinted in the last update that there may be no phase two for this new park?  Read on from someone who knows far more about this stuff than I do:

Hey Al, notice anything about DCA? It's the first new Disney park in a long time that doesn't have a phase two or major additions already started as they approach opening day. Nothing has been released or planned as an addition to DCA. 

When MGM opened in '89 it was a small park with few attractions, but Star Tours was added a year later, and other shows and attractions came in quick succession thru the early 90's. When Animal Kingdom opened, it could be seen in an afternoon, but the large Asia section and it's attractions was already in the middle stages of construction on AK's opening day and Asia opened in '99. 

DCA on the other hand has nothing being built or planned beside it's opening day attractions, and not a peep out of Burbank or Flower St. about any sort of additions any time soon. They obviously feel that the current lineup of attractions is enough for now, and there is absolutely no need to spend any more money on that park. 

Another person who I spoke to was even more blunt - "any talk about DCA having a second phase is bunk."  Apparently Pressler is only humoring people with pretending to talk about it.  No money will be spent - unless the park falls flat on its face.  "The new Electrical Parade will pull them in it is felt."

We'll have to see what happens I guess... 

By the way, if budgets remain intact - that new Electrical parade will really be something.  Too bad the current head of things can't distinguish between something good or bad when it comes to entertainment projects.  Pressler loved the current parade before the new music, he also loved Light Magic too, until the premiere.  He is supposed to not understand why people like fireworks either - are we batting a thousand here or what?

And a positive comment to make here about some current work going on - they are now redoing the "Christmas Tree" lot Lion King tram area - to somewhat match the excellent landscaping and decor work they have done on the Pinocchio Tram lot area adjacent to the new mall.  

I for one am glad they saw how horrible that new tram area was in the past - and if they come close to the very good work they have done on the other side, all visitors will benefit from this redo.  

Thank you to whomever pushed for this, it adds immeasurably to the esplanade area between the parks.


...meanwhile over in Tokyo

The Oriental Land Company is building a park that truly is a Disney quality [at least the old Disney we knew] project.  

The Disney Newsreel - an internal newsletter for company employees - detailed the new Tokyo DisneySea park in a recent issue, herewith are a few of the notes about it, paraphrased to keep us on the right side of the legal department there of course:

* The park is about 50% complete * Nearly 4,000 people are working on-site daily * 250 Imagineers are now working on the park, expanding to 350 by late summer 

* The park follows the shore of a waterfront - so the physical layout doesn't use the familiar Disneyland hub and spoke design * A unique entry icon is the globe shaped fountain called the DisneySea AquaSphere - the design features cascades of water flowing all through the oceans on it, and "mysteriously clinging" in place  

* The park's equivalent of a castle is the giant Mysterious Island Volcano in the center of the giant lagoon  * To quote an Imagineer: "[This park] has very expansive views and vistas from one port of call to another that give a sense of large scale grandeur, rather than the intimacy found in Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland in Anaheim."

* There are seven "ports of call" to visit - with twenty three new rides and shows - half of which are E or D type of attractions [compare that to our carnival here in the parking lot]  * All but a revised Indiana Jones Adventure in the Lost River Delta are brand new concepts for the park - no rehashes here

* The seven ports of call [each with their own highly themed logo that reminds you of old luggage stickers from the '30s and '40s] are:  

1. Mediterranean Harbor - The gateway to the park, [their version of Main St.] with canals and a Renaissance fortress with an interactive discovery area "celebrating the golden age of exploration."

Makes our fake Golden Gate bridge seem, well, rather puny no?

2. Mysterious Island - At the center of the park this area is inspired by the stories of Jules Verne - and is set in a South Pacific volcanic caldera of the 1860's.  [Think Frontierland in the middle of the park here instead of a castle.]  

Visitors go to the ocean floor to explore Atlantis in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and take a trip below the active volcano itself in a Journey to the Center of the Earth.  Both these rides have begun installation - including sets, Audio-Animatronics® [remember we get NONE of those here at DCA] and special effects.  WDI also has almost finished the rockwork in the Mysterious Island Vulcania Restaurant.

Meanwhile, we get a mall.

3. Mermaid Lagoon - The newsletter says go Under the Sea to explore Ariel's world and all her friends come along too. It has a cartoon-like feel [sounds like their ToonTown] with a deep-sea live entertainment show and interactive playground for kids.  Major ride elements for the Little Mermaid ride are already installed in a large "dry-for-wet" building - they make a point of saying in the story that Dodger Stadium could fit inside this building alone!  

What do we get?  The world's largest parking structure.  Whoopee.

4. Arabian Coast - Themed to Aladdin of course, there is a storybook ride here [this may be their version of Fantasyland] based on Sinbad's Seven Voyages, and it includes the first double-decker [and largest] carousel in a Disney park.  There is also a live magic show that mixes in 3-D animation featuring the Genie from Aladdin.


5. Lost River Delta - Is a mix of the Caribbean and Central American jungles of the '30s.  [Think Adventureland here.]  Visitors take a ride through a mysterious pyramid, and attend a live theater show where a "centuries old" jungle tale is told.  

This area is also the home of the newly re-tracked Indy ride - which will be powered by electric instead of oil motors - which should [as I understand] keep the attraction up and running more reliably.

We get a Mad Mouse next to a pale purple Dinosaur sunglass shack  - with yellow spots no less.

6. Port Discovery - This will be a futuristic marina [think Tomorrowland here] that "celebrates new frontiers in the sea and sky."  You'll board a ride called StormRider - which is a new simulator that takes you high into the clouds and then dives you into the eye of the storm.  "Cabin structure for StormRider has been completed and motion bases are being installed in one of the two theaters." they say.

We get a raft ride that all the other parks in the states have.

7. American Waterfront - Set at the beginning of the 20th century, this area showcases the harbors of New York and Cape Cod.  Visitors ride period touring cars in NY, and see a Broadway show.  A huge transatlantic "ship" [named the Columbia!] is docked in NY Harbor, which is actually a first class restaurant and lounge.  In Cape Cod nearby, visitors wander through a quaint fishing village [think New Orleans Square here].

We get a Wolfgang Puck's, just like the local mall has.

Now tell me - after reading all that - can you understand just how disappointing our tiny parking lot carnival will be here in Anaheim?  

At California Adventure there will be no animatronics, lots of recycled rides from the Orlando parks, and a few spinners and chain buckets.

Well, maybe we should plan a visit to Tokyo?  

Or maybe Eisner should just sell out the company to a Japanese management concern that cares about their customers and wants to put on the best show possible - knowing full well how much money they will make at it.


Fastpass expansion

Paul Yeargin is talking up the Park goal of having "Ten Fastpass rides at
Disneyland by October, 2000." You read that right, ten Fastpass rides.

From another kind soul comes the following about all this:

There was a memo sent out that said the "Executive Team of Walt Disney Attractions", which is basically Paul Pressler now that Judson is gone, has decided that Fastpass will be an important and integral part of Disney parks from now on. 

The first five Fastpass rides are already operating or being installed at Disneyland; Space, Splash, Roger Rabbit, Indy, and [finally confirmed] Autopia. The next attractions very seriously being looked at for Fastpass installation to fulfill the ten attraction goal are Mansion, Pirates, Peter Pan, Dumbo, Fantasyland Theater, Matterhorn, and Big Thunder. 

Fastpass is already showing its profit potential in dramatically increased visitor spending. It provides such a solid profit rise, with little relative expenditures, that there is not much that will prevent Pressler from maxing out every park to its Fastpass limit. 

Meanwhile, at DCA, three Fastpass attractions have been added to the opening day roster, bringing DCA's Fastpass list to seven.

California Screamin' [the coaster], Grizzly Rapids [the bear raft tide], Soarin' over California [the simulator film], and the Hyperion Theater [new bathroom-less home to Animazement] were already having Fastpass installed.

The Sun [Wonder] Wheel, the Limo [dark] Ride and the Maliboomer [space shots] have had Fastpass added to their queue's, which now brings the total to seven.

Basically, any D or E Ticket attraction added to a Disney park from now on will have Fastpass. For example, the new Compaq pavilion at Epcot, "Mission: Space" will have Fastpass when it opens in '03.

Well we know why they want Fastpass at DCA - you'll need more time for those bathroom lines, if and when you can find them...  ;)


Disneyland Band going away here too?

That is being looked at here too Al, and yes this is a Pressler initiative.  Now that Judson is gone there is no one to argue for this kind of stuff with Eisner anymore.

That was the response I got from a person that literally sounded like they were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  

It would probably be the same deal here as at was Walt Disney World - they will claim that "they need a change, and the resources will go to other performers" when the reality is that they just want to ax the cost now and no other performers will be hired.

So - what happened to Walt's concept about Main St.?  Where it would always be Fourth of July?  I guess those kinds of details aren't important anymore are they?  Not when you have a big expensive Dinosaur movie that may flop I guess.

And yes, I continue to hear discouraging things about this movie:

The special on the Discovery Channel was better.

...was what one highly-placed mouseketeer said.  [Thanks Fab.]


Autopia date changes

I know the Fabulous Disney Babe has one date for the Autopia re-opening, but I now have another set of dates from someone else who was kind enough to e-mail me:

Autopia is planned to open on June 20th. A media party will be held on June 29th. Expect a Cast Member preview in mid-June, with possible soft openings open to visitors around the same time. The official target date is the 20th though.


Rods going away soon

The Fabulous Disney Babe had a tidbit about this - and now I hear from different sources that the Rocket Rods' days truly are numbered.  "Pressler wants them shut down now. They cost too much to run." is what I was told.  

The day the Autopia re-opens may be the last one for them - if they want to eliminate them before summer.  Rumor has it the track will be torn out, and the CircleVision theater will probably remain empty and closed.  So, apparently this makes the New Tomorrowland of just a few years ago almost a total failure?  

Think about it.  Rods closed.  No subs, they are now hidden away in the caverns to stop visitor complaints about their being closed.  Innoventions can be deserted most of the time.  The Honey 3-D film seems to be the only semi-success here at this point, although attendance has been dropping [people do tire of films quickly].  Now we only have the Autopia reopening as far as any excitement goes.

And keep in mind Pressler hates the Timekeeper show which went into the CircleVision Tomorrowland theater in Orlando - which means we may not even get this inexpensive- to- install attraction here either to fill in the space a bit.

We really did get just a paint job didn't we...  ;)


Another sneaky price increase for Annual Pass holders

Looks also like the park bean-counters don't believe at all what Eisner has been telling the stock analysts - that he had implemented a program to "reward" the most loyal of Disney customers.

How does Disneyland "reward" its Premium Annual Passholders, some of their best customers by the way?  By cutting back the places they can obtain a dining discount - as if the already limited menus and operating hours don't already encourage them to eat off property as it is.

It used to be you had a 10% discount at all buffeteria locations except Redd Rockets - and the word was back then that they were looking at a way to try and give the discount there too.

Now [according to the new handout you get when you renew your pass] they have limited the discount to only the Plaza Inn, French Market and River Belle Terrace.  That means you lose Cafe Orleans, Big Thunder BBQ and Casa Mexicana [which is down for rehab anyway].

To the now lost dining locations credit, they have yet to refuse the discount when asked for it, which many people still do because Disneyland has kept this quiet.

But why chisel your best customers this way Cynthia?  It's such a hostile anti-consumer thing to do to them.  Things like this and the 10 year-old admission price increase are the reasons Disneyland gets people so upset and it gives the park such bad press, all so some guy in accounting can make his spreadsheet balance out.

Customers - especially good ones it seems - yet again come last...


Pirates event numbers

Heard some attendance numbers yesterday about this upcoming event:

They have added an extra 400 tickets to the event, for a total of 1,400. When they first went on sale, they sold over 800 tickets in the first two hours. They could have sold hundreds more than 1,400, but they had to limit the group to that for operational and logistical purposes.

As Sue in her column has predicted, the special ride time from 11 PM to midnight could be a bit crowded if everyone shows up right at 11.  

Why do I still feel no pain about missing this one?


I get e-mail [part two]

Normally I share my e-mail with you on the Ask Al™ page, but this note I want to share with you here, as it is a good example of how you can really enjoy Disneyland - and yet have some very valid criticism to make about your visit.  

I feel strongly that the Walt Disney Company sometimes does not understand these kinds of notes - especially up in the executive suites.  They do have a wonderful product for the most part, but they need to maintain it if they want to stay heads above what is going on out there... read on...


It has been with great pleasure that I have observed and accessed your Web site over the past year or two and seen all the changes and improvements you continually make to it. Your hard work is much appreciated. It has been a source of good information about the park and provided interesting reading on the inner workings of the Disney company.

I just returned from a visit to Disneyland with my wife and two daughters, ages 9 and 6. I thought I would share some observations with you.

We arrived the Wed. after Easter Sunday, April 26th. We spent Wed. night, Thursday and Friday at the park. Saturday we went to Sea World and came back to Disneyland on Sunday.

Needless to say, the park was very busy. I was hoping that a lot of people would have gone back home by then, but it was not the case. In spite of that, we still had a great time as always and spent maybe a maximum of 20-30 min. wait in line for any ride.

The only exception was Sunday night at 9:30 p.m.. The girls wanted to go on the Rocket Rods and there was an hour wait. So we stood in line for an hour, got off the ride at 10:45 and had just enough time to go on Space Mountain one more time before the park closed.

Observations and opinions.

1) FastPass is the only way to go on the rides that offer them. We used them on Roger Rabbit and Splash Mountain. We rode Space Mountain late at night and didn't have to use it. There is still a lot of confusion for park-goers on what FastPass is and how it works. I could tell that a bunch of people had no idea that it even existed. The standby line for Splash Mountain was probably around an hour. With FastPass we were on the ride in 10 minutes. 

At one point there was such a mob around the FastPass kiosks at Splash Mountain that the CMs were passing them out by hand, asking you how many park tickets you had and giving you the same amount of FastPass tickets. It will be interesting to see in the future how long the lines will be as more and more people use FastPass. 

2) Almost everything I've read about the Parade of Stars has been negative. I tried not to let that influence my own opinion as I viewed the parade, but alas, I must agree with other viewers. This is probably the poorest Disney parade I've seen since I started going to the parks. With all the past great parades we've seen, this is a poor shadow in comparison. It appeared to be thrown together from cast-away parts and pieces, looked cheap, and lacked any kind of pizzazz.

And the last thing I wanted to see were a bunch of tourists with silly hats doing silly things looking tired and embarrassed. Let's hope Disney is working on something much better for the not- too- distant future. This was the only real disappointment I had at the park on this trip.

3) Rocket Rods may not be what it could have been, but it's still a fun ride. And still wildly popular as evidenced by the only hour wait we did for a ride, and that was on a Sunday one hour before the park closed. Space Mountain was a walk-on by comparison. I will admit the theming for the queue is non-existent and definitely sub-Disney standards. I think it's more fun riding late at night, especially when it goes outside. Contributes to the illusion of greater speed, I think.

4) The fireworks in the evening were absolutely spectacular! It's almost worth the price of admission alone. And I finally got to watch them over the castle. We walked out of Tomorrowland at 8:10 Sunday evening and over to Main St. to the "sweet spot", right between Plaza Inn and Plaza Pavilion. The fireworks started at 8:15 pm. What a show! One of the highlights of the trip. Disney certainly didn't cut the budget on this one. Only Disney could create an actual shooting star!

5) When you visit Disneyland and then go to another park, be it Universal, Sea World, or Knott's, you come to realize that there is a definite Disney magic that only they can create. In spite of all the management woes, budget slashes, and inept decisions, Disney is still Disney and has yet to be duplicated. I love Universal Studios and Sea World is enjoyable. But for sheer magic and an experience that envelopes you the minute you walk in the gates and see the floral Mickey in front of the train station to the shows, rides, and entertainment until you walk out the gate after seeing Fantasmic or the fireworks, Disney is still king. 

In spite of Eisner, Pressler, and other bottom-line, corporate ladder climbing suits, the Disneyland that Walt envisioned is still alive. The face may have changed somewhat, but the uniqueness, the transport to a fantasy land, the wonder and joy are still available with a smattering of belief and some pixie dust. Let's hope it stays for a long time.

Thanks again for all your hard work on the DIG. The desktop photos are great. We've been back 2 weeks now and are ready to go again. I'm afraid I'm becoming a Disney-holic. Guess there are worse things to be addicted to. Thanks, Al. 


Thank you for sharing that note Kevin.  And yes, I too feel the same way about Disneyland.

I feel badly they don't care enough to repair things as they should, but then something wonderful like the new Fireworks show, or the terrific rehab in Pirates reminds me why I care about the place so much.  

They have a great thing there - it just needs to be maintained as such, not just in upkeep, but in quality of showmanship.  I just wish they would understand at the top levels what we all seem to very clearly understand as just visitors.  It's a Rolls Royce they have there with this park, you can't expect Yugo mind-set to maintain it as a smooth running machine for very much longer.  People do notice, just as Kevin did.


That should do it for now - see you at the park!


D-I-G Update 5/30/00 - DisneylandBlues returns / Rocket Rod's "rolling rehab" - um, yeah... / Electrical Parade coming back? / How rehab schedules work / More Fastpass info, and yes, it's being abused / Wonderbra Theater gets a new banner and sponsor / When things go wrong...

D-I-G Special Update 5/16/00 - DCA Problems? - DCA Horror Stories Part II - Some good news about the subs

D-I-G Update 5/10/00 - New executive line-up at Disneyland / Gotta pee?  Gotta wait! ...and more DCA horror stories / Meanwhile, over in Tokyo / More Fastpass / Band to go away here too? / Autopia re-open date keeps moving / Rods going away soon / Another sneaky price increase for AP holders / Pirates event attendance figures / Sharing a reader letter


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