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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update

D-I-G Quick Update 7/31/00 - Fantasmic gone? / More cut-backs / Haunted Mansion cutbacks - minor improvements / DCA Cast Member [employee] quotas / Mr. Lincoln stays? / Parking - oy-vey

Fantasmic gone?

It appears that Fantasmic's days are numbered - if the budget slashing that is plaguing the park continues at the increasingly epic scale we see it now approaching.

Here's the scoop on what is happening:  

The show goes away - not so much for rehab [very little may be done actually] as to go on hiatus [more likely mothballs] after Labor Day. It *may* return for one last run this upcoming holiday season - maybe for Thanksgiving, more probably for Christmas / New Year's.

Then they want to test the waters by not returning with the show and seeing how it affects attendance in the next year. If after a few months [with the hoopla about the new California Adventure park's partial opening to distract people, and the return of the Electrical Parade] the complaints go away - and attendance stays at about what they expect, then the show will never return.

Why? 

Biggest reason I understand is cost. Second biggest reason is that they do NOT want to take away or distract from the new park and in particular the new mall. Third reason is that they feel the show has had its run. 

Let's look at each reason in closer detail:

Cost - I've heard several figures, but roughly the show is supposed to run the park about $18,000 to $20,000 for the first performance, about half that for the second. [I could be off by a bit on that.] With incredibly small things like the Storybookland boats being cut back to reduce capacity and labor, this larger number looks like a very nice big number to accountaneer right out of the budget.

Keep in mind they have already made some cutbacks to the show this year - for example you'll see fewer spotlight operators up on the poles - pyro has been scaled back a bit - and they did make some [and want to make more] cast cuts.

The new resort concept - Disneyland management, and division chairman Paul Pressler, feels that they fundamentally need to change how Disneyland operates as a resort for the future. 

This means adopting the Walt Disney World model - where they would close both Disneyland and California Adventure year-round at either 8 or 10 PM (right after fireworks in summer for example), and then funnel those crowds into the cheaper to run and oodles more profitable Downtown Disney / Mall areas.

They do this because it is simply cheaper to have workers ringing up dinners / merchandise / [and especially] cocktails alone without a whole layer of high- overhead attractions staffing also operating rides that don't make any money for them and incur operational costs on top of that.

If you really look at it, yes - this concept is great for a day park like Universal [which loses its main attraction, the tram tour at dusk] - since it allows them to keep people spending at CityWalk. The customer doesn't lose out on anything in this case, they gain something they didn't have before.

But at Disneyland you lose out - since your admission price [which keeps going up each year remember] doesn't come down as the park closes earlier. Sneaky way to get a major price increase in a way isn't it - sort of like selling you a new smaller size of detergent at a slightly higher price? 

The show has had its run - Fantasmic was originally designed to run about five years - (and only seasonally [summers and holidays] to boot) - when it was first put together. When the show immediately began to increase attendance due to word of mouth upon its debut - they expanded it to pretty much ramp up those numbers and generate more spending by visitors staying longer at the park and having dinner / buying more.  It did its job, successfully drawing crowds for way above and beyond what it was planned to do.

With the change in how they want to now run Disneyland - with fewer operating hours - and a drive to then push that attendance on out to a mall that costs less to run than a park and generates more cash - you can understand now why the show no longer serves that purpose at the park. 

Will YOU have a say in all this as a customer? - Well, Disneyland will not close the show for long if attendance drops, that you can be assured of. The cost issue is steep enough that visitor complaints may not be any kind of factor here in keeping the show though, so letters e-mails will most likely not mean much. People will have to vote with their dollars [staying away] in this case to let them know how they feel.

We have to remember that Disneyland under Pressler and Eisner no longer subscribed to the "system" method.  What is the "system" method?

As you may remember - from Van France's book "Window on Main Street" [an excellent peek into the Disneyland of the past] - the park was run by Walt Disney in this way because he understood that some things would not make money individually on their own - but in providing them - they would add to the overall experience of Disneyland and benefit the bottom line in the long run.

An excellent example of this are the Main Street Vehicles - they don't generate any profit for the company - and they have staffing and fueling costs, not to mention upkeep. But when they operate, as do they do at periods throughout the day, they add to the atmosphere of Main Street - and is the kind of Disney signature touch that sets Disneyland apart from other theme parks in the level of detail and quality they provide. In other words - they help make the park a place you want to come back to.

Pressler and Eisner run the parks now in profit center mode. Each department - including things like Entertainment - is run as its own profit center and not only has to pay for itself, but in some way be able to generate a profit for the company. If for example - the pianist at Coke Corner increases sales at the location by keeping / drawing people to the area and they buy more hot dogs / Cokes - then they keep them on the budget. If Fantasmic keeps people eating and spending in park, they keep it going.

There's simply no room now for those little [and ever bigger] things, that do cost them, even if only a little, to fit into this way of running the business.

Keep in mind if people continue to flock to Disneyland, and then have a grand old time at the nearby mall in the evenings and don't say a thing about early closings, then they will probably eke out even shorter hours for the park and try to expand the mall even more to pull in that extra cash. 

So maybe that $4 beer at ESPN - or that $10 movie ticket [and $8 popcorn and soda combo] at the multiplex isn't such a good idea anymore if it means Disneyland's hours will be reduced, don't you think?

On a personal note - I do think Fantasmic has had it's run. It was great, but it is time for it to end.

But if I were running Disneyland - I'd want to keep it as the premier theme park in the world - and not just worry about the nearby mall.  I'd put in an even more dazzling show and wow you again, just like the original show did.

But then we all know who is running the park now...  ;)  Malls are more important to the bottom line for them, not big spectacular shows like only Disneyland used to be able to do it seems.

By the way, someday soon I'll write up in an update just what was originally planned for Fantasmic when it was first coming together - as someone was kind enough to detail it to me not too long ago. It's such a great idea still - that it could serve as a second edition of the show in the future.

 

More cutbacks

Last week's update [directly below] listed just the start of what is coming down the pike this summer as the park reduces attraction operating hours and capacity. Here are some more things that will be happening:

The biggest discussion going on right now is that Disneyland will be going to 10-6 operations in September, instead of the previously announced January date. This will be a big change, and they are going to have to make a formal decision and tell the business units within a week or two for scheduling purposes. Maybe if that change comes before January, it has a better chance of happening with the new fiscal year in October? It'll be very interested to see if this one pans out.

At Space Mountain, they have taken away extra positions in the loading area that allow them to run 11 rockets during peak hours. They have eliminated the 2nd grouper and 2nd loader position that speeds up the visitors and allows them to safely run 11 rockets. Now, without those positions during the peak hours, they are only running 9 rockets at maximum. On Saturday, July 29th, they only ran 9 rockets during the afternoon and early evening busy hours. Consequently, the line was 80 minutes long for the Standy queue. 

With the 10th and 11th rocket on the track the line could have, and would have been closer to 60 minutes long. For the Fastpass riders, the change was imperceptible. But for the Standby folks, the line moved much slower. Yet, the average visitor wouldn't perceive that anything was wrong simply by looking at the station, and wouldn't be able to tell that cuts had been made. Those types of cuts are an easier fix for cutting labor costs than some of the other cuts just made on the Westside of the Park where the Mark Twain is opening an hour later, the Country Bear Playhouse is closing one hour earlier, the Columbia is docked most of the week, etc.

Cuts are also being made in Fantasmic! crowd control for the rest of the summer, before the show closes what seems indefinitely Labor Day. They are now running the crowd control with about 23% fewer labor hours than they were in June and July. They no longer are patrolling walkways as thoroughly as they used to, and some sections on the perimeter of the viewing area have been abandoned all together. These additional end of summer cuts have come just two months after they made massive labor cuts in "Guest Control." 

There are now about 40 CM's to work Fantasmic! Guest Control's entire area. Compare that to just a summer or two ago when almost 90 CM's would work every night. When Fantasmic! debuted in '92, there were 160 CM's to provide Guest Control. That was obviously overkill, but the 90 CM levels of the last few summers were very appropriate.

The Jolly Trolley has been closed. It no longer operates in Toontown, and can effectively be taken off of the roster of Attractions for Disneyland. Right now, it is unknown if the Jolly Trolley will return for fiscal year 2001, which starts in October. But for now, it has been shut down. 

It is important to note that the Jolly Trolley has not been officially "decomissioned" as an Attraction. It has instead been closed for an indefinite "hiatus", much like the Keel Boats. The Jolly Trolley may return at a later date, possibly next fiscal year. Or, the continued budget savings may be too good to pass up for Park executives and the Jolly Trolley may have just unceremoniously passed into Yesterland. 

The Jolly Trolley was included in Toontown by the Imagineers because it was at one time thought to be an important, and whimsical, part of the entire Toontown "Show".

Beginning the first of August, the Mark Twain will not open until 2 hours after Park opening. Previously, the Mark Twain would open 1 hour after Park opening.

The Canoes will be going to a weekend only operation after Labor Day. Last Fall and Winter, they remained open 7 days a week, thanks to an initiative by park president Cynthia Harriss.

Big Thunder Mountain BBQ is now only open for dinner only, from 4 pm - 9 pm. Also the Little Red Wagon [Corn Dogs] is only open for dinner as well, from 4 - 9:30 pm.

Things are still changing daily - and there could be even more cuts in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland attractions, and at the food locations. They all dragged their feet a bit more than the rest of the Park, and are just now getting around to making the tough cuts. Apparently attendance has been quite soft the past few weeks.

And do you know what is so pathetic it's funny? In the middle of all these cuts inside the berm, they are installing three brand new, wide-screen Sony Trinitron television sets suspended from the ceiling above the lines at the Costuming building. They had to install new wiring and retrofit the ceiling beams to accommodate these big TV sets. They will be showing old "Wonderful World of Color" episodes, and specially prepared video information about the days Park operations to CM's waiting in line to get their costume for the day. Meanwhile, they cut staffing to the bone and the paint peels off the Haunted Mansion. 

Amazing, but true!

 

Haunted Mansion cutbacks - minor improvements 

I always find information about how the park is run, and in particular about how the attractions themselves are maintained, to be of great interest. The following information about the Mansion may give you a peek into what used to be done to maintain show quality at Disneyland, and how far things have declined under Paul Pressler's and Michael Eisner's "leadership."

The scrims [sheer screens] in the Haunted Mansion used to be cleaned every single night during the Mansion's first few decades. A crew of two Maintenance men would take care of the screens in the attraction by patting them down on each side with damp cheesecloth. 

Each man would pat the same area simultaneously on opposite sides of the scrim to remove the dust and dirt. They would use natural hair brushes to remove "spitwads" and other debris thrown at the scrims by misbehaving visitors during the day. This process was time consuming, but it kept the scrims in perfect condition and kept the effects looking their best. 

This continual process was stopped 4 years ago, during Pressler's first big round of Maintenance budget cuts a year or so after he took over Disneyland. The scrims have not had a thorough cleaning since the mid 90's. That's why the "Endless Hallway" and the entire Graveyard Scene are looking very tired and worn. Clean scrims would go a very long way in allowing the passengers in the passing Doom Buggies to see the lost detailing in the Graveyard Scene in particular.

Imagineering is trying very hard to convince the managers in the Team Disney Anaheim building out back [TDA] that this nightly and continual process needs to be reinstated in order to keep the show up to proper standards. A large scale cleaning and repair needs to happen first though, because the scrim maintenance has been deferred for several years now and the screens are in terrible shape. 

As I understand it, even Imagineering admits that the cost to actually replace the scrims would be cost prohibitive at this time. But, they would dearly like to see regular cleaning return to the fragile and important scrim screens in the Haunted Mansion.

The Imagineers are overseeing the installation of some new lighting equipment in many of the Show scenes for the Mansion. They are trying to get the budget to redo the Loading area with some new lighting effects, redone cobwebs, and the addition of some large candelabras. There are some other effects they would like to add to the rest of the Show, but they are battling over budgets. 

The department is discouraged because the things they would like to do are relatively low cost, and would add to the show a lot and really freshen it up. But, TDA simply has little if any money to give them for the redo. Some of the lighting is going ahead however, and should be in place over the next few weeks. WDI is very discouraged with the condition of some Show effects, and in particular one of the elevators that is in a horrible state of disrepair, with tears in the stretching wallpaper, etc. 

 

DCA Cast Member [employee] quotas 

The process of formally applying to transfer to DCA for hourly CM's has been going on the past two weeks. They will be finding out if they met their quota for transfer applicants shortly. Foods and Merchandise may easily meet their numbers, but Attractions will be a much harder sell. 

It basically comes down to how you tell someone who is now works on a wonderfully themed attraction as a Pirate or a Mansion Butler - or a Jungle Cruise Skipper or a Storybookland Guide that they should move over to the new park and work on a swing ride or a parachute jump? 

The kicker being of course that the darn carnival may not even open in time it now seems.

By the way... 

There is rampant talk that there is a plan for the near future to have CM's [employees] park at Edison Field and shuttle them to Harbor House from there. It's obvious from looking at the Katella Cast Lot that there won't be enough parking for everyone in a few months, and no one is sure where they have planned to park an extra few thousand DCA employees. Downtown Disney and Grand Californian CM's are planned to use CM parking in the new structure.

Also, there are rumors that they will be having to redo the Costuming system as it is currently set up. There is no way that both Disneyland and DCA costumes will fit into the poorly planned new Costuming building. The solution to this will be tricky, and could be costly. Stay tuned.

 

Mr. Lincoln stays?

Paul Pressler - no one knows why it seems - has apparently given the OK to try and upgrade the Mr. Lincoln show a bit. Could it be he wants to try and improve his rather depressing public relations image a little bit?

Anyway, [and we must give him a some kind of credit here for trying folks, even as we grit our teeth] he has some rather strange ideas of his own for the upgrade, and there have also been more than a few pitches made by WDI that also appear out of left field as opposed to intrinsic to the attraction's time period.

While I can't disclose what was pitched to him by WDI - I can tell you what Paul's show concept was: 

He wanted to put Mr. Lincoln in Ford's Theater right on the same night he was assassinated - with apparently the fatal shot "heard off-stage" as the climatic end to the show.

Mercifully he was talked out of it.

Let's hope for small, rather impressionable children's sake everywhere that Pressler never visits Madame Tussard's Wax Museum in London -- I'd hate to think what wonderful new attractions he'd dream up for Disneyland if by any chance he saw their chamber of horrors section.

 

Parking - ov-vey

I finally got to try out the new parking structure - it has pluses and minuses, which I'll detail below -

Pluses:

Chances are excellent that you will park in the shade. That's a nice bonus here.

They have bathroom facilities at the tram loading area - along with plenty of water fountains. This is excellent.

Emergency buttons positioned every few columns at wheelchair height are nice - should something happen to you in the structure. Good thinking on their part.

Minuses:

Unless you are lucky enough to park in the front quarter of the building near the escalators - you will have a very long walk to get to them. When they brag about this thing being bigger than several football fields or aircraft carriers - they really mean it, it's a LONG walk back to your car, especially if you end up near the furthest western- most wall. Why did they NOT design this structure so that the tram loading area was in the CENTER of the building? Thereby reducing everyone's walk on out to the car? 

You should plan up to an additional 45 minutes in arrival time if you are parked out back if you plan to meet anyone in the resort area at a specific time - there are some serious distances you now have to cover to get in, as well as any tram delays you would normally face.

I honestly do not think they have enough security on staff here to watch over you - despite the overwhelming amount of close circuit TV cameras that are places all throughout the structure. As you may know, Disneyland property in this area borders a very rough neighborhood. 'Nuff said.

There are only three elevators in the entire building for over a 10,000 car space.  [Two front, one in the back - all labeled for "wheelchair or stroller use only."]  And there are no redundant escalators anywhere. One broken escalator can jam up entry and exit to the building [as was already happening this weekend] not to mention make people end up having to walk up over five flights of stairs if they by some reason end up on the top level. This simply is not good.

To save money apparently, they now only open half the toll lanes [4] into the building - creating big backups onto West / Ball Streets - all toll booths should be open through the morning to process all this traffic in quickly.

Hopefully they can address some of these issues. 

On Saturday, when I got to the park at 4 PM, I had to park all the way in back of the building and I was cursing it the whole way on what seemed a Batan-like death march in and out. On the other hand - Sunday I got a spot four spaces away from an escalator, and it was much easier to deal with.

I don't think they can address those particular issues if you ask me.  ;)

 

OK, I need some sleep now, so it's time to end this way too early (as I still have so much to tell you). Maybe next time we can catch the rest of it all up...

See you at the park!



7/26 Special: It may get worse before it gets better

The lines are going to get really long at Disneyland and Walt Disney World this summer - despite a major new ad campaign to sell the new "FastPass" line reduction system. This is all due to some severe budget cutbacks now being put into effect that will reduce ride capacities.

Why all this now? Could the out- of- the- blue press releases crowing about the parks success and the [what seemed to many] the premature announcement of the third gate in Anaheim be related in some way? 

And just what is going on at the new California Adventure park - with what now appears to be four major attractions possibly out of commission?

Here is the story that seems to be coming together at this point: It may very well be that Disney is bracing for some massive problems and delays with the new California Adventure park and they are doing what they can to blunt it now.

First, I can now confirm and add more information to some of the rumors / stories on other web sites about major problems with a few of the big attractions at California Adventure.

Yes, they are now looking to dismantle the Golden Zephyr (one of the spinners). That ride was apparently problematic from the start. After it was first built it was discovered that the ride vehicles would swing right into the path of oncoming parade floats on the adjacent parade route. Then, after a lot of testing, they found out that when the ride is put in motion, the structure is very unstable and has too much vibration to be considered safe. A fix for it is still in the hypothetical stage, but it may just be cheaper to tear it out.

Spinner
The Zephyr / spinner in an earlier shot

While all that was going on, it then came to their attention that the concrete around the bases of many of the Paradise Pier rides is literally shattering and fracturing all around during the stresses of initial testing. As was related to me, the concrete contractor is almost ready to throw in the towel because at several sites they have replaced the concrete twice, only to have it immediately damaged and weakened a third time during attraction testing. 

The Orange Stinger, [spinner] the Maliboomer [space shot] and the Mad Mouse are all casualties of the serious and ongoing concrete problems - and apparently that's why there has been little testing of them since they first tried them out.

To make things even worse, despite a photo in the employee newsletter of a rather bored looking resorts chairman Paul Pressler and a ducking park president Cynthia Harriss taking a ride a few weeks ago, testing was abruptly stopped on the Grizzly River Rapids [raft] ride when it was discovered that the concrete flume at the top of the lift hill had developed serious cracks and fissures. 

At one point the water from the flume leaked so rapidly into the fake mountain that a sinkhole quickly formed at the top of the lift hill, and the lift shifted and sank more than an inch, destroying the first section of flume. Grizzly River has been shut down for testing indefinitely while they attempt a permanent fix. There is no word yet on when it will reopen again for testing.

Now - before we continue here - Disney should be given tremendous credit for doing a solid job on advance testing of these new attractions. They should be commended on all their efforts to insure they will be truly safe for customers.  

There is a lot of blame starting to go around about what has happened here - from WDI staffers who are saying "that's what happens when you buy off- the- shelf" to experts complaining that too many corners were cut by Paul Pressler and Barry Braverman in their zeal to try and prove to Eisner how cheaply it could really be done. 

But no matter who is responsible for the problems, having them at this time means that there are going to be some major delays as to when this park will fully open.

How major are these possible delays? 

Very. 

It is so major that in fact that we've probably seen Disney start to take action the last few weeks to try and blunt what may turn out to be a long delay in the full opening of this new park.

This upcoming delay is probably why [from what many observers the last few days have been telling me] they have started the cutbacks detailed below that will mean longer lines for you the paying customers at Disneyland [and from what I understand Walt Disney World also]. And it may be why they made the sudden announcement of a third park - which took the spotlight away from what should have been the start of a huge campaign to promote California Adventure. It also seems to explain neatly why they did so little for the 45th, and why they suddenly, in mid-summer, have put into effect some huge increases in food and outdoor vending prices. It also seems to explain the almost total stop of any painting or upkeep that is needed everywhere in the park.

As you've been reading here on the DIG, you already know about the major budget cuts for Entertainment, and the further cuts which may be coming to that department. Now below is a listing of what you will be facing this summer when you visit Disneyland - as I understand it, this is just the start of a massive cutback Paul Pressler is demanding from the parks to most likely help make up for the expected revenue shortfalls that the delay of the new park may create. 

Paul Yeargin, the man brought from the Disney Stores a few years ago to be Disneyland's Director of Attractions, has urged all Attractions business units to "Close the gap." (the official buzzword euphemism for major budget cuts) by reducing labor hours all over the Park. The cuts that have gone into effect throughout July are widespread, and some are increasingly drastic. The examples are endless:

At Star Tours, they are now running only 3 of the 4 available cabins. A few times a day the Star Tours lead will fire up the unused 4th cabin and run it thru a show cycle without riders just to keep it show ready, but they only load 3 cabins with visitors, which reduces the capacity by a whopping 25%. Do you know how many Cast Member's [CM] that saves out of the budget? Exactly ONE. It only takes one to unload all four cabins on the exit side, but it takes one Star Tours Host or Hostess to load, group and spiel to each cabin. They are saving one loading shift, and increasing the wait time by one fourth.

At Jungle Cruise, they are proposing that they will only run a maximum of 6 boats during peak hours. Previously they were running 8 boats at peak. And in the recent past, they would run 9 boats during busy days. 

At Matterhorn, they now only open one side of the track during Magic Mornings, saving lots of labor hours. But there are now waits of 30 minutes for the Matterhorn during Magic Mornings! That would have been unheard of not long ago. Keep in mind here the Magic Morning program is being marketed to visitors as a "time saving" jump start on the day, before the crowds and long lines develop.

The Columbia Sailing Ship was previously scheduled to operate seven days a week, for 6 hours a day during the summer season. But effective immediately the Columbia now only operates Friday, Saturday and Sunday thru the rest of the summer. And if the attendance does not push past 50,000 for the day by the 11:00 am attendance estimate from the Main Entrance people, the managers are having to cancel the Columbia without notice. 

Several times recently the Columbia has been pulled out of Fowler's Harbor, but has only made two or three trips around the river before it was docked back in Fowler's and closed up for the day because it was not "busy enough" to justify the labor hours to park execs. There have been complaints because the Columbia only spent an hour or so out on the river, and then closed for the day without warning or explanation. The Columbia CMs are either sent home if they wish, moved to the Mark Twain to send another CM home, or moved to Fastpass locations to spend the rest of their scheduled shifts on the clock. 

Pity the poor CM at the turnstile who has to explain to upset visitors that they can't ride the Columbia, even though they just saw it sailing by with passengers 30 minutes earlier. Most are forced to lie and are telling them that there is a "technical problem" with the boat, and that it may return tomorrow.

At the new Autopia they are cutting positions in the loading area and scaling back on capacity in the evening to save labor hours, at the expense of efficiency and shorter lines. I guess we shouldn't tell the Chevron people about all this [who shelled out big bucks for the new refurbishment]. 

What is sad is that the cutbacks are hitting the smallest attractions hardest. At Storybookland, they have redone the schedules so that the attraction now opens with 2 boats, ramps up to a 6 boat operation, and then ramps down after the last parade to 2 boats. Before July, Storybookland was budgeted to open with 4 boats, ramp up to 8 boats for peak afternoon hours, and then ramp back down and close with 4 boats after the last parade.

At the Country Bear Playhouse, they had been opening one hour after the Park opened and closing at 9:00 pm, with both theaters running from 10:30 am until 6:30 pm. Now, they will be closing at 8:00 pm and will only run two theaters for a couple hours in the afternoon. 

Nearby at the Canoes, they have cut one boat out of the budgeted fleet, and now only run 5 Canoes during the afternoon. Previously, they had been running 6 Canoes and still had a 30 minute line. Just a few years ago, they would run 8 Canoes during peak summer days, and for a few more hours than the current operation.

There isn't an area in the Park that is not cutting labor, and effectively reducing carrying capacity and / or operating hours, to help save money. This is on TOP of already reduced attraction operating hours for things like the Tiki Room and Mr. Lincoln. Merchandise and Restaurants are also making cuts in CMs and operating hours to help save, but the cuts are most noticeable and most damaging to the visitor experience in Attractions.

Even Guest Relations is also getting in on the budget slashing by now reducing the hours that the Central Plaza Info Board is open to just 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, after making earlier cuts in the Phone Room operating hours. There is also no longer a Guest Relations Host or Hostess at the Info Board to welcome early entry visitors or offer information about Magic Morning, and most staffers who normally were booked for 40 hour weeks during the summer, now are lucky to get four days at six hours each.

Most depressing cut? "Lost Children" now no longer opens with the park - they wait to open this two hours later. Reassuring huh?

The most amazing thing about all this is that they are doing all of this right after they opened two new Fastpass attractions and brought the total Fastpass locations to five!

The whole point behind Fastpass in the first place was that if you weren't waiting in line, you would be spending more money. But now, as an example, the Indiana Jones line is shorter, but the Jungle Cruise line [which is supposed to help soak up the overflow from Indy] is now longer than it was in June. You may not have to wait in line for Roger Rabbit, but the line for Storybookland has been extending past all of the available switchbacks in the afternoons recently. 

You can breeze right on to Splash Mountain with your Fastpass, but the capacity of the nearby Canoes has been cut by 20% and the line can now be easily more than a half hour. Space Mountain and Autopia have Fastpass, but Star Tours is only running at 75% of it's capacity in order to save one employee from the days budget.

It would seem to the outside observer that Disneyland is shooting themselves in the foot by spending all this extra money on Fastpass and it's staffing, only to reduce capacity at almost every other attraction around the Park. So not only do we pay more this year to get in, and get less parades, shows and entertainment, [and no painting or upkeep] but now we will get longer lines on top of all that.

But when you may be facing a major revenue shortfall if a new park does not open on time - this is what you may have to do, damn the consumers.

No wonder resort president Cynthia Harriss in a recent meeting was burying her head in her hands as she kept hearing what they had to do to cut back even more on the budgets.  

It also helps explain why the Electrical Parade is coming back June 6th next year with no changes, and even shorter to boot, and why there are also many rumors floating around about the imminent and now very long seeming Fantasmic hiatus. [On Fantasmic the latest timetable handed out internally had the show closing for the Fall on September 3rd, then returning for the busy Christmas weeks, and then closing again for at least a year. Nothing has been definitely spelled out yet, but it now appears that it may be down for a lot longer than that.]

To wrap things up here - this is going to be a summer of very long lines at Disneyland due to the intentional reduction of capacity on rides to save labor costs. If you are planning a visit during this busy time - please take this into account and plan accordingly. Not doing so may add hours of wasted time to your day, even as prices continue to go up and up.

And if you are looking forward to some of those new rides in California Adventure - better not book that trip too early. All that may be running in the new park if it opens in the new year may be a lot of movies, and of course that tortilla making and bread baking Eisner and Pressler are so hot about.

 

There are other problems with new construction at the resort, most notably the new parking garage:

As mentioned before they will only be able to use the first two levels for now. Disney could not come to a good faith compromise with the building inspectors on how to fix the escalators that don't have covers over them. These escalators were simply not designed to accommodate or support a permanent canopy, and state law mandates that outdoor escalators of this type must be protected from the elements for user safety. They may have to tear out the escalators to the 3rd thru 6th floors and start again. They have gone back to the drawing boards to find a fix that will cost the minimum amount of money. 

The garage was supposed to open in it's entirety in early June, and may now not be able to open in full until Christmas. 

 

Speaking of Christmas and California Adventure...

This will be the last year it looks like for the Candlelight Procession at Disneyland. Plans are now in motion to move it into the new Hyperion Theater across the way in California Adventure because - a] they can accommodate it better there, and - b] they may finally be able to expand the schedule to a few weeks so they can sell dinner packages at that park's eateries.

Anyone feel like I do that they totally blew off why it was held in Disneyland in the first place? To enjoy the show in the small town atmosphere of Town Square?

Selling those dinner packages is more important I guess. 

 

See you at the park, if the lines aren't too long of course...


D-I-G Quick Update 7/24/00 - The third park / Mermaid of Tomorrow? / Pooh push / The Third McDonalds in the park / Price increases / Fire & Floods in Toontown / Painting? / New costuming / Misc

 

The third park 

We all knew it was coming - [and yes, it was mentioned here first in the D-I-G months ago] - now let's really take a look at what we may be getting for a third park complex here in Anaheim at that strawberry field. [You may also want to take a look at this rather unusual website Imagineering put up, the link opens in a new window so you won't lose your place here.]

The strawberry field as seen from the top floors of one of the hotels - Harbor Blvd. is the street below
The strawberry field as seen from the top floors of one of the hotels - Harbor Blvd. is the street below

First of all - count on a water park being a part of it as mentioned before. The Atlantis theme may be out at this time, since the upcoming film didn't test all that well recently. The fall back is a Little Mermaid theme as I was told. Pressler is bothered that both Six Flags and Knott's have water parks, and he doesn't. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to understand he will be building something that may only be used seasonally.

Since this is another Pressler project [as of now at least] don't expect ANYTHING new or exciting for the regular theme park to be put here - look for something built along the lines of California Adventure [DCA].  Expect off the shelf rides, little or no theming - LOTS of shopping and hotel rooms surrounding it.  This may be where the lower priced hotels they are thinking of [like the All-Stars in Orlando] may end up.

Disney has made a big deal out of telling the city of Anaheim that they want to build a people-mover system out to this new park from the other two. The reality is that they will probably seek a way to run some kind of bus or tram system down Harbor Blvd. - Pressler & Eisner just do not want to spend the money.

A big new car garage is supposed to be built where the Grand Hotel used to sit, adjacent to the freeway - the current employee lot on Katella Ave. will be closed and they will end up in the new structure adjacent to the current Pinocchio lot, as called for in the original master plan.

Also they now are planning another expensive hotel to border DCA, basically taking up the Timon lot. Who needs more rides or attractions, right?

All this could change of course depending on how DCA takes off. It's interesting to note that everyone within Disney felt that this announcement was somewhat rushed - if I find out what the reason is behind it, I will detail it here.

 

Mermaid of Tomorrow? 

Our good friend Lance over at the ScreamScape site broke the news last week - here's what I have heard about this "still in blue sky" mode [not approved yet] attraction for Disneyland:

Expect the Rods to go away - very soon.  Maybe as early as October [when the new fiscal year starts]. Once they gut the old CircleVision building [and move the offices out that are still inside] the Little Mermaid moves in.

How can they put the Little Mermaid in Tomorrowland you may ask?

Easy, by building the attraction so that the queue and facade faces the Matterhorn and Castle, thereby somewhat extending Fantasyland over a bit to embrace the mountain. Entry to this high end dark ride is where the current Mermaid meet and greet is - in the ride expect to "float" over highlights from the movie, including a giant Ursula.

And if you can think of the one ride that ALWAYS has long lines in Fantasyland, that also "floats" over things, you now know which ride system they will use.

On the Tomorrowland side of the building, not much will change. I was told the NASA exhibit isn't long for this world now - merchandising wants the space back to bring back the Premiere shop. They may lose a few feet of depth to accommodate the Mermaid attraction on the other side a bit better.

Only down side to this clever idea? That Tomorrowland loses yet another attraction. They always did have problems with this land... 

 

Pooh push 

Before any of the above happens though, Pressler [Chairman of the parks] is pushing hard for the Pooh attraction which will replace the Bears. Apparently Cynthia Harriss [President of the Disneyland Resort] is not moving fast enough for him on this one as I was told.

This is a simple ride - sort of an odd duck for the area if you think about it - since this type of attraction would normally be better suited for Fantasyland.  It would be a duplicate of the floating honey pots now seen in Tokyo.

 

The Third McDonalds in the Park

Apparently the deal for McDonalds calls for Ronald's greasy clown fingers to extend even further into the park - with another outlet now set for Toontown.  Finally, closing this area early every day now makes sense.

Which makes me wonder, when does the GAP move into the park - along with Taco Bell and KFC? Pressler and Eisner are determined to duplicate that local strip mall of yours at Disneyland come hell or high water.

 

Price increases 

It's now like clockwork - Outdoor vending [ODV] and foods raise their prices every six months.

Most annoying? $3 now, instead of 2.50, for a frozen lemonade / icee type of drinks sold from stands outside. It was apparent this Sunday they went too far, as for the first time I can ever remember there were NO lines on a hot day for either at the stands in the park.

Sodas in cups now are 2.19 - up a dime - lots of other nickel and dime raises everywhere else too [Churros are up 25 cents for example]. They have cut back on the more unusual fruit selections in the $5 fruit basket too - no more blood oranges, just another slice or two of melon now.

I guess if attendance is slow, you get more profits by milking the crowd a bit more.

 

Fire & Floods in Toontown

Looks like Toontown isn't immune to fires and floods like the rest of California suffers...

Clogged drain

The picture above was taken this past Sunday by Karl Buiter - some kid had plugged the pumps at the Toontown fountain [in front of Mickey's and Minnie's houses] with paper towels. The maintenance guy [shown above] had to unclog it to stop all the flooding.

Ah kids... meanwhile, not too long ago...

Mouse House on Fire

A firework shell from the new Believe nighttime show landed on Minnie's house and set it on fire [burn marks seen above]. They got it out quickly enough - but unlike the old days, we don't see them fixing things back up anymore.

Speaking of fireworks - I watched with horror Saturday night this past week as cars began to stop on the I-5 freeway to watch the fireworks show. In just a few moments, they had backed up the entire freeway, not to mention create possible accident situations. As I understand this is a nightly occurrence.

Shouldn't the Highway Patrol be monitoring the area for this?

 

Painting?

Apparently they have been busy painting in Tomorrowland - the Star Trader and Star Tours lower walls got new paint. They are currently working on the Radio Disney booth under the rods platform now. Just before Autopia opened, they managed to finally paint most of the rods track that showed the brown glue stains.

Let's hope this is the start of a program to paint the whole park.

 

New costuming

The old, nice. The new - want to super size that please?

New parking lot shirts made their debut - but all the employees hate them. Besides being made of thicker [and hotter] material, and the fact they show dirt much easier, everyone feels like they need to take your fries order.

I thought those old shirts were very Disneyland. These new ones are way too McDonalds. Or are they planning something we don't yet know about...

 

Blocked at debut!

Didn't take long did it?

Blocked!

The photo above was taken on MousePlanet's opening day July 17th by Andrew Rich on an Innoventions computer.

Some things never change, even if the URL does.  ;)

 

MISC...

* Tarzan was moved out of the Emporium windows, and Fantasia 2000 moved in.  I can't figure that one either.

* Parking garage will open Monday the 24th, but only the first few levels. Seems those unfinished / uncovered escalators are the culprit here.

* People in group sales who will be moving into new offices in the parking building are wondering why it's OK for them to be there, and not OK for the kennel. Apparently the kennel won't be moved to this location because they are worried the animals will suffocate. Makes the employees feel a bit, well, special I guess. ;)

 

By the way everyone, thank you for all the kind e-mails of support and congratulations on our launch of MousePlanet last week. We not only managed to keep our numbers intact with the changeover, but we grew yet again. It's all thanks to you the readers.

 

See you all at the park...


D-I-G Quick Update: 7/5/00 - Business slow - Resident Salute kicks in early - Entertainment budget cutbacks / Fourth of July Fireworks and explosives - in the sky and out in the parking lot / DCA preview center moves into Lincoln exit / Bad visitors abuse cast members

Here are a few more minor tidbits that won't hold until the next major update:

Business slow - Resident Salute kicks in early - Entertainment budget cutbacks

Attendance is lower than expected [but NOT unforeseen - Disney did expect many people would put off a visit this year to come back when the new park would open] so cutbacks galore are in the works now. A secondary reason I was also told this was happening was that FastPass is using far more labor hours than originally budgeted, so many departments are having to struggle to make up for it. 

The first big cutback is in the Entertainment department - on July 17th [of ALL days to pick mind you, the day of the actual 45th Anniversary] they plan to eliminate Woody's Round-Up [as the Fabulous Disney Babe has already discussed in her column last week] Mickey's Matterhorn Climb, Tarzan meet and greet, and a few other entertainment shows and regulars - with the Billy Hill performers maybe one of them. 

Hours are being cut all over the place everywhere else ...including the latest casualty: the phone room with the live operators to answer your questions is now only open 8 am - 7 pm instead of 7 am - 10 pm.

Knott's and Universal both started their Resident Salute discounting early this summer last month. Disneyland begins their discounting for locals with a new Southern California Resident two-day ticket running now through 9/30: $59 for adults, $49 for kids. [The second day on the ticket can be used any day until 9/30, and at any time.]  That should save folks a few bucks.

 

Fourth of July Fireworks and explosives - in the sky and out in the parking lot

They did a nice job with the additional three minutes of fireworks for the Fourth - they synched some of the nicer effects from the new Believe show to the Golden Dream track first heard in the American Adventure over at EPCOT [and for a brief time here in Mr. Lincoln]. A clever touch was firing off the comet fireworks during the part of the track that had speech excerpts from JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and the recording of the moon landing.

I'd never heard the fireworks so loud before - and a quick question to a person in the pyro business provided the answer - dynamite! Anytime they want to "goose" a fireworks show a bit, especially if they are worried they may not have enough rockets to pull it off, they literally fire off what amounts to sticks of dynamite and have them explode overhead.

I love explosions, don't you? :)

Meanwhile the parking lot suffered from explosive tempers as the mass exodus after the show produced an incredible traffic snarl at the exit to the parking lots.

Too much traffic, added to all the folks who came to the area surrounding the park to see the fireworks for free - plus the very stupid scheduling of a fireworks show at the nearby Edison Field that emptied at the same time just about grid-locked the entire south Anaheim area.  

A kind reader, Fernando, detailed his headaches in the following note I had in my mailbox when I got home:

Hello Al. Longtime reader here with a question fit for Ask Al though I'm not directing it for that purpose unless you choose to use it in that manner... 

Anyways, I attended the park on the fourth of July this year. I was prepared for the crowds and long lines which were not all that bad, at least based on what I expected, and what I see week after week there. However the parking was an entirely different story. Upon arriving at our car at about 10:30 pm, we sat there, unable to move for nearly 20 minutes. 

The lane in front of us and behind us were SO packed they did not move. The exit lanes were also at a total standstill. (give or take a few inches) From the tram, it was clearly evident that traffic was crawling. The only available exits were the usual ones where one comes in from. 

At almost 11:00pm, somebody finally got cars moving into the parking structures first floor which led to an exit that bypassed the brunt of the parking mess. (we were in Pinocchio row 8 I believe) That exit spilled us out onto Disneyland Drive. I felt sorry for people that were stuck midways out of the parking lot who had no way of reaching the parking structure. 

I saw ONE cast member helping out there and she should receive a medal for the insults she must have endured. She's the one that began pointing us into the parking structure. The trek into the structure consisted of about 6 mangled lines of cars squeezing themselves in. Based upon all of this, my questions, comments are: 

1) How in the world is Disney going to handle the crowd flow out of the parking structure once it begins to accommodate the people for two parks and a mall? Shall we begin planning for hour long exits from the park?

They keep claiming they have this all planned - but increasingly I at least am finding this hard to believe.

2) How many ways out are there in that structure? Please tell me more than one!

Only ONE exit is planned at this time - but onto a ramp that will feed traffic directly onto the freeway, as I understand it.

You know, all it will take is ONE flat tire, and the whole resort could gridlock from what I see.

It was very frustrating leaving the park and although I expected major crowds for a fourth of July day, I did not expect to have the ability to turn my car off for 10 minutes at a time before crawling an entire car length. Does the word bottleneck mean anything to Disney?

It all boils down to costs - everything about the California Adventure expansion reeks of cheap. From the park itself, to the bare minimum of work they did on any adjacent projects to save every penny possible.

My question - which I think ALL the Disney Company stockholders should be asking also - is "How much will have to be spent in the future to make up for all the penny-pinching going on at this time?" Isn't that BAD management to spend more later to fix mistakes made in budgeting now?

 

DCA preview center moves into Lincoln exit 

A DCA [Disney's California Adventure] preview exhibit [and the merchandise previously available outside the gate at a cart] have been moved into the Lincoln exit lobby.  Basically they built a wall in front of the mural there to hang a lot of the same concept art that was in the tent outside before it got struck down.

It's interesting to see people shaking their heads as they look at all the art - I guess it's apparent this carnival isn't impressing too many folks.

 

Bad visitors abuse cast members

I spend a lot of time on the site sometimes detailing the problems the park has in dealing with customers - but this time I want to tell you about what happened at dinner last night as we watched some hapless cast members [CM's] try to deal with some belligerent visitors.

As you can imagine, the Fourth means big crowds, and at dinnertime facilities can get overwhelmed. One particular problem the Plaza Inn has is that since it is on the parade route, and near where the better viewing for the fireworks is - people tend to stake out tables to view either, and as a result the seating gets tight or non-existent for people who have purchased food to find someplace they can sit down to eat it at.

The management at Plaza Inn had decided [and wisely too I may add] that they were going to make every effort to free up tables for diners - and that meant they would block off entry to the table areas and only allow diners access to them at that time. They also went ahead and spotted folks who were not dining and asked them to please free up the tables for those that wanted to eat.

We had grabbed a table to eat our chicken, and noticed the table next to us had parade viewers, but no diners. After a few moments, the CMs came by and asked the people to please move, and after a few frowns they did. The CM's then went to help get folks seated - and then the people you see pictured below decided to stake out the table for the parade - without purchasing any food from the restaurant of course.

Well the CMs came back with the folks who had dinners on trays in hand, and of course asked the people to please move since they were not planning to eat there. You'd THINK they would understand and leave, right? Especially since people were standing near them with trays of food getting cold, right?

Bad visitors
I promised them their photos would appear here... 

Well - the woman [third from the right - photo above] in the group started arguing and yelling with the CMs - claiming SHE was NOT notified that SHE could NOT site down there, and was NOT going to move.

The CMs begged, they pleaded - all while the poor diners [who they had brought over for the table] tried to keep their trays balanced and watched their food get cold. After a few minutes of this, they went and got the manager and the woman then continued to argue with him about how she was NOT going to move. 

Then the manager reminded her she needed to be eating to have the table - upon which then she grabbed a couple of bags they had brought with them, and emptied out the sandwiches she had brought from home and haughtily told him that SHE DID HAVE FOOD and SHE WAS NOT going to move.

Amazing no?  ;)

Well, my dining companion and myself were just aghast at a] how she was treating the poor CMs and b] at her unmitigated gall in having people stand there with their dinners getting cold.

So I grabbed my camera and then announced to her loudly "That's it lady, YOU TAKE THE CAKE!" and I started taking flash pictures of her and her entourage with the flash going off every few seconds.  

"You win a place on my web site lady," I continued, "as the rudest and most inconsiderate person, along with your friends here, I have ever seen at Disneyland.  I promise you that my two million readers will see your face and know what you did starting tomorrow morning."

Well - she couldn't believe what I was doing [and frankly neither could the surprised CMs or her partners in crime] as I snapped away at her and her group.

"You can't take my picture!" she screamed.

"Yes I can, you are in a public place." I responded.

"Your crappy website means nothing!" she yelped.

"I have two million readers lady." I let her know. "Two million people who will know how truly horrible you are."

Well, it finally turned the trick - she was embarrassed enough that she picked up the mess she had made and trudged off with her minions yelling the whole way.

Can I say I enjoyed the moment?  Well I did.  :)

And as I promised her - the photos are here for you to see for the next few weeks as we deliver the numbers we quoted.  I always keep my promises.  :)

[You know, they really DON'T pay those CMs enough most times.  :) ]

 

That does it for now, see you at the park! 

 
ON THIS PAGE

D-I-G Quick Update 7/31/00 - Fantasmic gone? / More cut-backs / Haunted Mansion cutbacks - minor improvements / DCA Cast Member [employee] quotas / Mr. Lincoln stays? / Parking - oy-vey

7/26 D-I-G Update Special: Paul Pressler's SLOWPASS - It may get worse before it gets better

D-I-G Quick Update 7/24/00 - The third park / Mermaid of Tomorrow? / Pooh push / The Third McDonalds in the park / Price increases / Fire & Floods in Toontown / Painting? / New costuming / Misc

D-I-G Quick Update: 7/5/00 - Business slow - Resident Salute kicks in early - Entertainment budget cutbacks / Fourth of July Fireworks and explosives - in the sky and out in the parking lot / DCA preview center moves into Lincoln exit / Bad visitors abuse cast members

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