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- Roger Rabbit
Former Disneyland ride designer Bob Gurr writes / Suits out in force in park discussing ride issues / A new restraint system may be on the way
Former Disneyland ride designer Bob Gurr writes
Bob Gurr has had a distinguished career with Disney, as one of the key people involved in engineering attractions for the parks such as the Monorail. He was kind enough to send the following note, which he gave permission to pass on here. It helps clarify the ride design process a bit, in particular he addresses the issues of doors on ride vehicles:
Thank you Bob for your note.
Suits out in force in park discussing ride issues
The last few days since the accident have seen more management types out in the park, apparently re-assessing many of the ride vehicles that utilize lap bars.
One group was spotted near the Alice in Wonderland ride yesterday - in a deep discussion over how the vehicle enters the tunnel into the first part of the ride. A group member was expressing concerns about clearances between the caterpillar- shaped ride vehicles and the cave rock work. They were also probably looking at the attraction building ride exit up above, where the vehicles start their track on down the leaves back to the loading area.
Another issue I understand that is being looked at is the use of some kind of uniform use of a seat "surface treatment" to keep riders from sliding around should a vehicle take a sharp turn. You've probably seen these surface treatments on the Pirates boats.
A new restraint system may be on the way
The current word now is that the park is looking for a slightly different solution to address the entry / doorway issue on vehicles requiring lap bars.
They are looking at installing a type of mesh covering - attached to about three quarters of the bottom part of the ride entry opening via a shaped wire bar - leaving the top free corner to be latched by the ride operation cast member after the vehicle was boarded.
Unlike a door - there would be no problems with pinching little fingers or toes with this - and the mesh would help serve to guide feet and keep packages within the ride vehicle.
As we hear more, we'll pass it on to you.
Trouble in Toontown
I am sure all of you have heard the news by now - a four year- old boy ended up under a Roger Rabbit ride vehicle and was seriously injured last Friday night. It has been touch and go, and he is still in critical condition.
Right now the re-opening of the ride is being looked at on a day to day basis - they determine daily what they may do as the investigation may end up taking a while. As you may have gathered from the last update I put up on Friday [below] it has been hectic for me personally this weekend, but so far this is what we've been able to find out.
There are a lot of factors that play into an accident of this type, in my conversations over the weekend with more than a few folks both in and out of this situation, the following points / issues have been raised - which will be further detailed as you read on:
Let's start with Ride design...
As most of you may know - the Roger Rabbit ride is unique among all the attractions in the parks for being a hybrid of several past ride concepts.
To give you an idea of which ride systems were combined and what elements of them apply here - it's best to tell you how the concept for the ride was originally tested: Imagineering first placed an Alice spinning teacup onto the Haunted Mansion ride track one night and ran it as they spun around. Then they did it again on the Pinocchio ride.
Once they saw that it was possible to do this and allow the rider to experience all the surroundings - not to mention how much control it gave him of what he saw - and the extra fun it added, it was quickly pushed forward into development.
In essence Imagineering got a whole new ride experience, out of combining several other ride type concepts into one. Now keep in mind as you read here that each of the different systems had led over the years to certain ways of handling riders that would minimize any risks to them.
The various ride systems are rather briefly explained here:
On a typical dark ride in Fantasyland, such as Snow White's Scary Adventures [also Mr. Toad or Pinocchio] - the ride vehicle sits on a metal guide rail, which can provide electricity to run it and guide it through the attraction. Control of the vehicle is pretty much done by turning the current on or off as the vehicle is needed to be moved. It's pretty basic and very simple since ride speed is preset by the motor used.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Alice teacups. They are freely spinning units, speed and rotation direction determined by the rider. Three cups are bolted to a pole on a smaller turntable that revolves in one direction as the larger turntable it sits within goes the other way.
Why each of the rides has differing rider restraints -
On Snow White, the use of lap bars on this type of dark ride takes into consideration the fact that riders sit without too much sliding around as the ride basically just moves forward at a set slow speed. There is also no loading area or platform for out of vehicle feet to get crushed against - nor any spinning of the car that would possibly push a rider out a vehicle opening. (Other than a few sharp curves in the track, you don't have the ability to get jostled out of your seat as for example a roller coaster might do to you.) Anything you bring on with you - such as a shopping bag - stays at your side or below with your feet too, as the limited motion won't hurl something out of the car.
There are no lap bars on the teacups since there is no practical way to offer them - BUT they do have doors at the entry point into the cup shaped vehicle which are closed before starting - which help keep a rider in should the spin force involved push them into that area. Those doors also tend to keep in the car anything you may have brought along with you, such as your purchases.
How Roger Rabbit's ride works - and its restraint system -
The Roger Rabbit cars are pulled along a track [two swiveling Taxis to a single ride unit] just like a dark ride environment such as with the Fantasyland rides - with the riders seated in a spinning teacup type of vehicle. [The track in this case is under the floor, not on it.]
The restraint system chosen - the lap bar - tends to be the norm for a dark ride like Snow White at Disneyland. [We'll talk about the Big Thunder coaster and its use of lap bars in a moment.] But Roger's ride design also incorporates the spinning motion as seen on the Teacups.
So why was a lap bar restraint decided on? According to a few folks I chatted with this weekend who may know about these things there were lots of reasons - including ease of use [it gets the passengers in and out fast - which keeps the ride from backing up and then emergency stopping], a cost factor - vehicle doors simply cost more to do and then later maintain - and a past history of this type of apparatus working well on other similar attractions.
So then the question becomes: If Roger Rabbit is designed with a teacup ride element [spinning] why wasn't a vehicle door that would enclose you in the car considered - which the teacups have?
If the chances are high that the spinning of the ride unit may slide you around a bit on your seat (or send a package or object of yours out of the vehicle) - wouldn't it be a good idea to have a closeable entry door along with the lap bar to keep feet and riders within the ride unit?
In other words - even though this is a dark ride in many ways, doesn't the spinning element involved warrant a different restraint system than would normally be used?
This is the second time that we know of where a rider has slipped out [accidentally or on purpose] of the ride vehicle and hurt themselves. [A girl earlier this year had a package drop out the open side of her unit, upon which she slipped out to try and get it, and became stuck in the track slot when her foot fell through the rubber flange that the car's track pole comes up from.]
From what I understand people climbing out from under the lap bar has happened many times on this ride since it has opened - but it is not discussed or kept track of since in all the other times it has happened the park has not had an injury. Since the park under past laws never had to report these kinds of things - there was no way for the public to know how problematic or serious this situation may have been at this time.
Disney's past history on the issue of disclosure is well - not customer friendly - to be mild here. For example, with the Indiana Jones ride they refused to disclose how many people were being injured on it - while continuing to make adjustments to minimize injuries. It just didn't sound like the right way to conduct business to many people.
The next factor to consider here is Visitor mix -
As I mentioned above some of the questions people increasingly ask are:
Is the park still being run as it was in the late fifties as far as the type of visitor it now gets? - Think about it, Disneyland in the past got a certain amount of respect from of its patrons, and they may have followed safety instructions better then. A park built 45 years ago may not have adapted as it should have to a changed crowd - does Disney truly understand what today's kids will do?
The new Tomorrowland entryway rockwork is a perfect example of this - the day it opened up, kids were climbing all over them, with parents just ignoring them. Shouldn't the park understand that kids will do this - and that many parents just can't be counted on to guide the kids properly? At great expense, they redid the rockwork to work in more fences to it - but kids still climb up, and there are fewer cast members around to shoo them off. It should be noted many people asked these questions BEFORE this area opened to the public, yet it seems that the designers never bothered to take that into account.
And does Disneyland management understand how Annual Passes change the consumer mix? It's no secret that the cheaper passes are used to "baby sit" kids by some parents. Unlike the casual once- a- year visitor who may be more respectful of the park's operational rules, the frequently visiting kids may test how far they can flirt with the rules - and look for new ways to entertain themselves by pushing the edge on rides they are so familiar with that they may be bored with.
Also are visitors not understanding safety instructions due to language barriers? Unlike Universal Studios - which now offers Spanish language closed captioning on all show and attraction pre-show videos, and even Spanish [and other language] tram tours - Disneyland, after a brief flirtation with multiple language announcements for parades and shows has eliminated them for the most part.
I can't even begin to count how many times we've ridden out to one of the parking lots - only to see entire families [usually Latin or Asian] bewildered by their tram ride to the wrong lot - they are confused since they don't understand the tram instructions on the way in or out of the lots since they are only offered in English.
Likewise with safety instructions - visitors who do not understand English do not hear the rules for riding trams such as keeping small children in the center of the ride bench [away from end seats they can fall off of] or pulling kids out of strollers for the duration of the ride.
Finally we need to look at how the Cast Members are now trained, compared as to how they were in the past.
Could a loading procedure not have been followed in the Roger Rabbit accident?
The Times story made a point of mentioning the one adult rider wanted to sit on the inside of the ride car to spin it - while the four year old boy was seated on the side of the car that had the opening. Due to this, the only restraint afforded him was a lap bar that was optimally adjusted for the adult rider, but it left him with plenty of space to wiggle in on his side.
What I keep hearing is that the child somehow [due to how small he was and how the car was spinning] slid out of the car. I cannot confirm if it was due to his trying to grab an object that spun out of the vehicle - or if he was just too small [or too tired -- it happened at about ten PM] to be able to stay in.
Shouldn't the Roger Rabbit ride dispatcher / loader have noted this loading problem ahead of time? And then made sure that the child [due to the possible problems with a lap bar not being able to adequately hold him in] sit on the inside of the car - so the adult rider was between him and the entry door?
Also did this situation occur because there too many reductions in training time due to ruthless budgeting problems?
I now understand that training on the attractions and in the park keeps getting cut back due to both budget and personnel shortages. One of the factors in the Columbia accident that killed a tourist was the lack of training of the Cast Member on the proper docking of the boat. Due to budget constraints - properly trained personnel would not arrive until a later point of time that day on the dock.
In-park training of new recruits has been shaved back from six hours to now under two as I understand it (as far as spending time in the park). They are supposed to be now increasing ride training time - but apparently it still is not as extensive as it once was in the past. The huge turnover and lesser job experience that affords continues to reduce the amount of employees who understand how to properly operate the facilities at the park.
What are the possible solutions here?
There are a few things the park can do to help "idiot proof" the attractions a bit more - and provide a safer park environment for the public.
Here are my suggestions based on / summarized from the essay above:
1. DOORS - Disneyland should try and avoid ride vehicles that have openings that let legs dangle, or allow smaller riders to slip out. By putting in doors on ride vehicles such as the ones used on Roger Rabbit, Big Thunder, and yes, even Dumbo - little feet and riders would have an additional restraint to hold them properly in place. It would also provide an additional barrier to get past if a rider tried to get out of the car.
2. REDUCE THE BABY SITTING - Disneyland HAS done a good job of trying to cut back this kind of Annual Pass abuse - but it needs to continue to make progress in this area. It should be noted that most kids do follow the rules and do a good job. But the ones that want to continually "test" the limits of the safety rules need to be removed from the mix on an ongoing basis. Also the park needs to take into account the lax supervision of adults nowadays when designing new attractions or areas.
3. COMMUNICATION - Starting with the parking trams, and spreading back out into the park - Disneyland MUST acknowledge it is an international tourist destination and properly address non- English speaking visitors so they can understand and safely use the resort. With the California Adventure expansion ready to go - it is imperative they make sure that at least the two largest groups of visitors, of Spanish and Japanese heritage, be able to understand clearly how to function on the property.
4. RESTORE TRAINING SCHEDULES AND BUDGETS - Accountaneering needs to get OUT of the budgeting process for cast member training. The incredible amount of turnover - caused by the park NOT paying competitive wages and their inability to schedule people fully reduces the amount of experienced personnel working with the public and operating the attractions.
I know the larger majority of Disneyland employees do their best to watch over the public and insure they have a safe day at the park. The Walt Disney Company needs to support them fully, and examine the issues raised in this update to help keep the park a safe place to visit.
Let's hope they make substantial progress in these areas.
Do take a few moments to also read Adrienne Krock's excellent column today that compliments this special update. In "Parenting in the Parks" she reviews a few simple rules you may want to keep in mind when taking your child on rides to keep safe. I want to thank Adrienne for taking time late Sunday night [after a busy weekend] to assemble her column for the special section today.
Indy roof problems mess up ride
Meanwhile upkeep problems keep affecting rides. Friday night's unexpected downpour further damaged the Indiana Jones ride building roof - short circuiting the equipment and shutting it down. The rest of the weekend it was running erratically if they could get it to run at all.
The word was that they had covered a long time hole in the roof with a tarp that gathered leaves - and when the rain hit, the combination of both the heavy water and the huge amount of leaf matter created a bigger mess than they were just putting off to fix. Eventually the tarp gave way - pouring water into the building and damaging the ride systems.
Deferred maintenance only makes it more expensive in the long run to fix things, if that really was the case here. I guess the suits making those decisions aren't interested in what can happen when they are busy saving those pennies.
Merchandising stocking problems
The shelves at Disneyland's shops are really looking empty. No, parks head Paul Pressler hasn't sworn off merchandise - it turns out that the Disney company moved a key distribution center for the parks and stores and they still are not back up to speed in shipping merchandise out to them.
Some Disney Stores are getting horribly mixed up shipments, and most everyone, including the park is simply not getting anything - making for emptying shelves and hurting sales.
Any major distribution change such as this can be problematic - Disney is not the first to have this happen. But with all the divisions pinching every penny and squeezing every dollar out for Eisner, this can only end up hurting the consumer in some other way if they don't meet their nut due to this.
Steve Jobs is why the suits were in force, why is he visiting Disneyland?
Turns out the reason everyone was going so crazy last week was that Eisner was giving Steve Jobs a tour of the park this past weekend. Suits were told they had to have everything just about perfect for his visit, or else...
Of course all this is going to do is start up all those Apple / Disney merger rumors all over again. Which of course must delight those folks at park corporate sponsor Compaq to no end.
I personally don't think Apple is going anywhere - but Jobs could have been courted this visit. To do what, we'll see. It will be interesting to find out what may happen in the future with Pixar and Disney for example.
Ok, I'm tired. Two [truly wonderful] weddings, a big update, plus all the other work that still needs to be finished from this past weekend. Enough update, I want to go back to the park. See you there!
D-I-G Update 9/22/00: Christmas Believe Fireworks Show? / Redd Rockets discount coming for APs - portions back up to size / Last weekend for the Rods... looking into the future / Country Bears change course, as does Pooh / Claiming credit for DCA / DCA Ride times / Disney, Hasbro and Mattel, of course there's more to the story... / Sharing a letter / Yes they are painting / Best wishes to two happy couples
Christmas Believe Fireworks Show?
They keep throwing around ideas for Christmas - and here's what now appears to be the latest [and most firm to date] of what they will do this holiday season to try in pull in bigger numbers.
Looks like they will put together a Holiday "Believe" Fireworks show - basically utilizing the same set-up they now have for the current show, adjusting it slightly to fit to a new soundtrack of holiday music. The good news here is that the person in charge will be the same one who did the regular "Believe" show - which as you all well know has drawn rave reviews from visitors.
So basically in the past few months they canceled the Mansion / Nightmare redo - threw around the idea for Electrical Parade holiday performances [although it may still come back for the week between Christmas and New Year's] and scrapped plans for a new Christmas parade (we'll get the same well- worn procession that we've all grown much too familiar with yet again this year).
Redd Rockets discount coming for APs - portions back up to size
This is a minor news item compared to what's in the rest of the column today, but it's such a good move by the park, I decided to put it up front here.
They finally will start giving the Annual Passholder 10% discount at Redd Rockets in Tomorrowland - with a goal toward implementing it around October 1st, but possibly sooner if they can get the registers re-programmed.
It's certainly a move in the right direction - very customer friendly - and I know how hard some of the Cast Members [CM's] who were behind this worked to make this happen. I used to avoid going to this one location in the past due to the lack of a discount - but am now pleased I can add it to the list. Now let's hope this also doesn't come with a price increase.
On another front - it seems that at least at the Plaza Inn the food portions have gone back up to the previous size after a cutback the last few weeks. I have yet to check the other locations where cutbacks were noticed - but am hopeful they restored the portions there also.
Thanks again to all who made this happen.
Last weekend for the Rods... looking into the future
We posted on MousePlanet's main page earlier this week the new closing date for the Rocket Rods [the 25th] and for now it appears this will be firm.
The word still is that they will NOT come back - and as I type this there are several proposals now being pitched for the replacement.
One that is especially intriguing is a self- propelled roller coaster using the same track. Lighter-weight cars - and the ability to build banked track on the current pathway would allow for this.
This new ride - along with the possible arrival of Buzz Lightyear [as first seen in Walt Disney World], and the redo of Innoventions into a free "sampler" DisneyQuest [to get you excited about going to a local version when you get home] pretty much indicates that the Paul Pressler budget-minded Tomorrowland re-do just didn't do the job it was intended to do.
The good news is that they are looking to fix things. The sad news is that we all pretty much knew they were going to have to do this way before what's there now opened up.
Let's hope this is a new move in the right direction for the park. There is no timetable yet for all this to happen [if it comes to be] but the success or failure of California Adventure will probably be a major factor in all this.
Country Bears change course, as does Pooh
The bears were THIS close to being closed - we are talking literally days folks - then studio head Peter Schneider got this idea he wanted to feature the characters in a movie and spin them off into a TV show. [See Jim Hill's column for more details on this].
So now that those guitar strumming bears finally get their big showbiz break - where does that leave their originally planned replacement, the pudgy and slightly addled British cousin - Pooh?
I've been told Pressler really wants a Pooh ride - not so much because the public wants it - as for the merchandising possibilities it will offer him. One rumor has it that he was asking about tearing down the Hungry Bear dining area to build the Pooh ride there.
What that Brit honey fiend has to do with the Rivers of America - which the ride would border on - is a bit of a mystery to everyone, including those folks at Imagineering [WDI].
They keep discussing at the park that they wanted to bring back the old Motorboat ride in Fantasyland across from the Matterhorn - but wouldn't you think this area may be a better location for the Pooh menagerie?
Bet they don't like that location as much since they can't figure out how they will put a shop in... ;)
By the way, back in Critter Country they are now re-jiggering the Splash Mountain fast pass to try and avoid all the problems they've been having with it - in particular the frustration of the people in the standby lines. Looks like the Briar Patch shop is a part of this. We'll see how that works out.
Claiming credit for DCA
Have you read the L.A. Times story yet that ran earlier this week? Where the reporter gives the impression that Eisner just about designed and built the new California Adventure park [DCA] by himself?
Let's look at some of the quotes that raised eyebrows not only at Disney but in a lot of other circles, shall we?
The Times wrote:
This is a garage folks [at Disneyland] that cannot open half its floors because they neglected to install escalator roofs as mandated by state law. Let's also not forget that due to tight budgets there are only TWO elevators provided in the entire building [a third in the rear is designated as employees only] - compared to the elevator banks of six or more Universal Studios offers in each of its much smaller parking garages. [Uni also managed to get the roofs on their escalators.]
"Al," said one Burbank exec, "this a rich man. Trust me, the last place he parks anywhere he goes is in a public garage. We all laughed when we read that quote - it's like asking a brassier maker to design a horse saddle - they know it has to hold something up, but that's about the extent of it."
I guess she won't be doing too many of those teen- oriented Paradise Pier rides will she?
This from the man who brings carnival rides and barkers onto Disney property.
I guess that's why there are so few of them in the new park? They must be awfully nice. ;)
More than a few observers pointed out to me that the unique nature of this press barrage signals a few things:
My question [yet again] is - why not just do it right in the first place? Wouldn't it save the company lots of money and give a better product to the customer?
Pressler and the rest of the execs involved in the resort expansion have known for a long time how they will be overshadowed in this upcoming PR barrage - but it hasn't stopped them from privately continuing to complain they don't "get the credit they deserve."
They tend to forget the old adage, "Success has many fathers, while failures are usually orphans." Unless of course you work at Disney - where success is only Eisner's, and he pins failure on whoever he can stick it with.
If DCA goes the way of the Disney Institute - big launch, then lackluster results - the tune Eisner sings will be changed. The Institute when opened (according to all the PR releases) was an idea Eisner got from his wife which he pushed through to happen. Now that it's been doing so poorly - Eisner has been saying he wishes WDI hadn't talked him into it.
I wonder if Paul Pressler will someday hear about how he shouldn't have talked Eisner into this new park?
Changing the subject slightly here - it's interesting to note that this past week has seen a LOT of suits out and about in the park during the day. Normally it's almost a badge of honor at the Team Disney administration building out back to brag about how long it had been since foot was set in the park - but now they are all out in full force.
Could something be up? ;)
DCA Ride times
It took quite a few phone calls, but here's what we have now for estimated capacity and ride times for the California Adventure rides - all subject to change of course:
Capacity looks, well - um - low, no? Keep in mind these are optimal loading times and numbers - something that will be rarely achieved in real time / world operation. We've all been on rides that don't cycle this efficiently at Disneyland.
By the way - as you'll note above, most attraction pre- shows, such as the one planned for the Soaring Imax film have been yanked due to FastPass (and to save money). The Whoopie movie still has no set final timing - due to a death scene everyone is nervous about that they have to either keep or get rid of.
Also, word is now out that the Hyperion Theater show may be a Cirque du Soleil type of presentation - this must be cheaper than getting the real thing into Downtown Disney I guess.
Gosh, I can't imagine wanting to see bread baked for almost ten minutes. And I guess the tortilla making times can't be determined since they have to figure out if they will be made of either flour or corn - and in stacks of three or five. ;)
Disney, Hasbro and Mattel, of course there's more to the story...
Here's an e-mail I got from someone in the toy biz just as the parks began to clear all the Mattel merchandise off the shelves. The e-mail arrived (by the way) before all the news about the new deal broke - it took me a bit to confirm it:
[Note: Mattel does still retain a significant amount of Disney licensed merchandise - the Fisher Price Pooh line among others - the above writer did sent a note back to confirm that]
What the author of that e-mail left out was the problems Disney had with previous Mattel president, Jill Barad - who in trying to meet profit goals made a major mistake in asking the Mouse to forgive a royalty payment owed. Disney execs (rumor has it) then got back at her by being the main behind- the- scenes source for a very unflattering New York Times business section profile - where all this was detailed and was the beginning of the end of her career there.
As upset as the e-mail author is in the note above - there is a good point that was made - that the sales of licensed merchandise have been dwindling in past years for Disney - yet their prices for licensees keep going up and up.
At Disney I understand there was a recent memo going around that discussed bringing back more of this stuff in house [reducing the total outside licensees] to get a better handle on things. Most insiders felt it was a way to get around the fact that the company increasingly is having problems getting the prices they ask for on licenses.
Now you know why they have suddenly been pushing the parks division so hard - films have been slow - merchandising [both stores and product licensing] has also been slow - home video has been off - so they work the one arm of the company that generates the cash all the time to the brink.
More than a few observers wonder if they will now damage that end of the business like they've damaged the others - by pumping out cheaper product in ever increasing quantities and demanding ever higher sales.
"These execs now are focused on the parks like never before," one wag offered, "now after strip-mining the other arms, they are working their "magic" on the resorts."
An observation here... Disney movies on home video were a big deal, until they came to the well too many times and dumped way too much product on the market. Disney Stores used to be special - until they became ubiquitous like 7-11's are.
Will the parks remain exciting destinations if the goal now is to build more of them worldwide [as well as stateside], at a lower level of quality, like DCA?
It's a series of questions a LOT of people are now asking.
Before I forget here - expect Hasbro to take over sponsoring small world and the adjacent toy shop here at Disneyland, and for them to also sponsor other locations, such as Tinker bell's toy shop in Fantasyland.
There are rumors we may also see some of their licensed properties or characters at the parks - Mr. Potato Head in particular (thanks to Toy Story) - but all that is pending right now. You will see some of their properties at the new All Star "Pop" themed resort at Walt Disney World.
Sharing a letter
Normally I'd save this for an "Ask Al" column, but I wanted to share it with you today, there have been no edits to it:
I do think Roy Disney read the note - it's common practice after taking a look at something of this nature to then pass it on to another department to handle it. The response, sadly enough, looks like a cut and paste job, but it is to be expected what with the volume of mail they handle.
Let's hope the sincerity of what was written made it through, while company executives may only look at people as financial targets, they tend to forget that it's those special one- of- a- kind memories that keep them coming back.
I want to thank the person who submitted the above note for letting me share it today with you.
Yes they are painting
While we're on the subject of upkeep... I've posted pictures on the Rehab pages of the work now being done in Frontierland - and also they have finally started in a few other areas of the park, including the Main Street train station (which got a terrific spruce up the other week). But the Haunted Mansion, small world and ToonTown - the areas most neglected - still haven't seen a drop of paint yet.
Let's hope they get added to the list soon - I'll keep everyone posted as to the progress here. Disneyland deserves to look its best, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is just the beginning of good things to come.
Best wishes to two happy couples...
Ok, enough! Time to head off - but before I go I understand two very special couples are getting married at the resort this weekend - and they both [to my best recollection] first met at Disneyland in some shape way or form via the online community.
To Jeff & Ilene, and Roger & Michele - my heartiest and warmest congratulations - it looks like you found even more magic than you may have bargained for at the park.
I hope all your wishes and dreams come true - isn't it simply amazing that something you have in common, like Disneyland, opens the door to so many other things you obviously share. I am always amazed at just how the list keeps increasing of the couples who first met there.
That's a good thing you know. :)
I'll see you at the park...
Pressler's Expanding Empire? - WDI Tidbits
Paul Pressler spent some time in Chicago last week - we're guessing to visit DisneyQuest there.
But he did do something rather interesting while on his jaunt - apparently he stopped by a few of the Disney Stores. In one case, he spent some time at the Northbrook store last Friday with his daughter and some of her friends.
He was shown around a bit - including an explanation of the "Big Ideas" the stores are working on, was told about recent experiences with the GO initiative, [whereupon the Disney Stores have been pushed into doing more aggressive sales with customers] etc.
Then Pressler and the pint-sized entourage left - but he came back alone and hung around watching everyone work.
As you can imagine, there are several rumors running rampant now that may tie into the above actions - I'll detail which ones seem to make more sense:
Little wonder, this is what the man was born for. The problems didn't start until he took over the parks if you really look at it.
Sigh - are we going to see things like the "Plush Spiff?" at Disneyland - where employee / cast members [CM's for short] start to move over to a commission system? Currently Disney Store employees get 75 cents for each plush item they manage to sell to a customer - except for holiday or other selected items.
Disney employees from what they tell me appear to have a hard enough time making ends meet now - can you imagine them all moving to a commission system? Not to mention how high pressured your leisurely vacation visit will become with the kinds of sales tactics this kind of mind-set fosters.
It's where the man belongs - deciding how many Pooh pajama designs need to be offered - NOT designing Disney theme parks.
The above is all interesting especially in the light of the following comments made by a seasoned observer of the shenanigans Pressler has been putting the parks and resorts through since he took over:
What's interesting about the above comments is that there is supposed to be an e-mail circulating around Burbank that details Pressler's parks history - and shows what each major project he's touched or been involved with since "Light Magic" has actually performed and what it cost, compared to what he said it was going to accomplish for the company.
Anyway, we all know what those numbers would look like - not very encouraging. [Hmmm, maybe adding those stores to his empire will keep his growth going and mask those problems? Just wondering out loud here.]
And this e-mail sounds like just the thing an envious executive there might do to trip him up. Like someone who kindly wrote me - "it's a snake pit in Burbank. No matter who you are, someone is out to get you."
We'll have to see what develops - but I'm sure the one thing all of us customers who are having to endure the much longer lines and peeling paint at the parks would like to see is his moving on.
On a side note: Ken Wong, who used to head up Imagineering before Pressler steamrolled in, had gone over to Pop.com after he left [the entertainment site that Dreamworks / Imagine and billionaire Paul Allen was shepherding]. Apparently after spending millions [10 to 18 according to some trade sources] - and months of work - they still didn't have a viable business plan and the project was shut down before it could debut and then really start losing money.
"Wong was supposed to be the savior of that site" one wag told me. "Katzenberg in particular was pushing for him as a prize acquisition from Disney. But what they found out about him was what Disney knew all along - he means well, and makes great initial impressions, but he has a paralyzing effect on projects he works on. His indecisiveness is a major reason he was no longer at Disney."
BTW - quite a few folks in the theme park industry are continuing to delight in Disney's wholesale conversion of WDI into division that will only hire in consultants instead of keeping people on staff.
Why? Because now they can get a hold of all this Disney level expertise and background knowledge at little or no cost to them. These newly created "consultants" can sign all the NDA's the Disney Burbank lawyers demand of them, but ideas are ideas and they go to whoever has the money for them at that time.
"Disney has become the R&D department for every other park in the biz," one wag told me, "we all love Pressler's & Eisner's cost-cutting in this case. Just about anyone can get quality concepts and ideas without the overhead."
Hey, at least those pesky labor costs are kept down at WDI right? ;)
Wassup with those Rods man...
I really feel sorry for the Tomorrowland scheduling people - the off again, on again saga for the Rocket Rods at Disneyland continues. After announcing a closing date of Sept. 9th, they decided this past weekend to keep them running until at least the end of the fiscal year. (October 1st)
What could have triggered the change? Maybe all the complaints about just how much of the park is now down [in particular Frontierland / Fantasmic] the earlier closing hours and lack of a resident salute discount [so far].
On your next visit, if you have the time, spend some time in City Hall listening. It can really open your ears to what the public thinks.
Cutbacks mean long lines and smaller portions...
As mentioned before - your best bet in planning a visit may be to wait until the new fiscal year starts up [Oct. 1st] - that's when the budgets are supposed to be restored for staff and attraction scheduling.
A few weeks ago I had some photos in this space of just how long ticket lines could be due to this poor scheduling [man, they even make you wait in line to GIVE them your money!]. Now take a look at last Sunday's huge tram lines at the new parking structure at 10 AM:
I guess you even now have to wait in line before you can even be taken to the place where you wait in line to pay to get in. You know, I personally think Paul Pressler must have a thing for long lines. He wants them everywhere apparently.
Meanwhile Foods has now started cutting back on meal portions all through the park - it's been VERY noticeable the past two weeks. Everything, from giving you now only three potato wedges at the Plaza Inn with your fried chicken (instead of four) to smaller sandwich fillings and painstakingly measured portions of pasta is now in effect at all dining locations.
Mind you - the portions were so large in the first place to help justify the higher costs you see within the berm - and yes, many people did not finish their servings - but this just move seems, so, well... cheap.
Let's get serious here - three potato wedges? That's not even a full potato anymore - how much more can they squeeze out of the public. Anyone want to take bets they are trying to buy smaller chicken parts? ;)
The following shot shows the progress in the work being done on the DCA entryway -
- I guess they went with the California theming all the way - goodness, for me the above evokes being stuck on the freeway looking at all those public murals. ;)
BTW - I've also got two pages of new photos up in the REHABS section detailing the long overdue work now being done in Frontierland. I am hoping this is just the start of the much needed work the park needs to bring it back to past standards.
There *may* be another quick update this week if time allows, see you at the park...
Disneyland's Glowing Christmas Present?
Quick? What do you do when attendance is down and you're in charge of Disneyland?
You could put in a new attraction - nah, too expensive.
You could revamp an old show like Fantasmic, - nah that's probably going to get zapped anyway due to budgets.
You could make over another attraction for Christmas, like, oh... say the Haunted Mansion - yet that will run some real money...
You could debut the new Christmas Parade you were promising - but those accountanteers are raising their eyebrows again.
Or - best of all - you could break a promise you made... YEAH! THAT'S THE TICKET!
We already knew the Main Street Electrical Parade was coming back - but what we didn't know is just how early Disneyland may end up zipping it down Main Street.
It seems discussions are being held to either a] bring it back for a week between Christmas and New Year's to goose attendance, or (more likely), b] bring it back for the two full months that Christmas now runs at Disneyland in place of the promised new Christmas parade.
"But it isn't even a holiday parade!" you may say brow furrowed, upon which a Disneyland entertainment department type would snicker at you and then comment "but you forget, you fan you, we already have a holiday edition of the Electrical Parade that runs in Paris - all we need to do is bring in the holiday music soundtrack overlay here!"
How would this be handled by marketing to get around the "glowing away forever" promise they made? Why it would be a "Special Holiday Gift from Disneyland" whereupon "it would be so wonderfully received" that "Disneyland would then just HAVE to bring it back this summer due to popular demand!" That's the way they would sell it.
It's kind of sad isn't it? It seems now they are even re-cycling old parades to save money.
What's next - America on Parade? No, that's probably too expensive, but that old Aladdin parade is SO much cheaper isn't it?
Roger Rabbit Roasted (among other problems)
We were watching the Believe fireworks show last Sunday night, when we noticed a larger than normal amount of duds - in particular a bunch of shells that went off at ground or launch level instead of exploding up in the sky.
One very bright explosion then seemed to create a huge amount of smoke that didn't drift off like the rest of it did. We found out later why, it turns out the smoke came from a malfunctioning shell which landed on the roof of Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin and set it on fire.
Mind you - this can always be a problem with fireworks shows, especially in the enclosed area Disneyland has to deal with.
But why can't they just put up sprinklers on the roofs backstage and run them during the show? Wouldn't that make some sense?
One person involved in the show was also lamenting the poor quality of the latest shipment of shells for the show - seems they are cutting some corners with the suppliers they use, hence the probable cause of so many duds lately in the show.
Fireworks weren't the only problems Sunday night - the power to the monorail beam went out and then came back on during the fireworks show - and then it took over an hour [right as the park was trying to empty out mind you] to get one of the trains off the track with the diesel mule since it wouldn't run anymore when the power came back on.
Thankfully the balky car was still at the Downtown Disney / hotel station when all this happened and could be unloaded before it got out on the beam full of folks.
The grumbling you hear is the tech folks tired of cannibalizing Monorail Red for parts to try and keep them running.
DCA Ride Update / New site up
This week you're probably going to see a lot of workmen climbing all over the new coaster at California Adventure.
No, it isn't because of any major problems with it, this is what happens after some testing to tweak bolts and make sure the thing is hanging together properly. It's all SOP, standard operating procedure.
On the other hand, the problems with the Zephyr spinner ride continue - but some progress has been made. Apparently the steel frame has now had all the vibration stopped [it would have shaken apart if not] and the spinner motors have been adjusted so they won't be approaching burn out in speeding up then slowing down the ride.
That still doesn't solve the problem with the cars swinging out too far out over the parade route, but that may be solved for now by stopping the ride during the cavalcades. While further reducing capacity of course.
One person quipped to me that "most of the patches being made to the DCA carnival area rides will keep the rides functioning for about a year." I asked someone else about this comment, and then I wondered what plans they have after that. "Um, what plans Al?" they responded. "There are none."
Meanwhile, most of you have had a chance to see the new official DCA site. It's three pages [one page focused only on the motel no less], two videos, and a photo of the week.
Here are some comments on the site sent to me by readers:
There's plenty more, but you get the message.
Mansion Woes continue
The lack of maintenance at the Haunted Mansion is getting worse, for example most of the wood baseboard where you enter on the porch has been kicked in - the boards made weak by wood rot.
In the ballroom scene, someone threw a coke up on the glass, and it hasn't been cleaned off in weeks.
Meanwhile the scrims get dirtier and they make the effects seem dimmer. It's just heartbreaking.
People do notice Paul.
Take a look at the Plaza Inn's sign - you'll see the restaurant is no longer sponsored by the Columbian Coffee Growers. "It's one of many unhappy sponsors." I was told. "There are plenty more making noises - seems Pressler is just not very good at keeping them."
"Could it be they just don't get any bang for the buck?" I asked. "That and a lot of other things," they replied, "mostly they seem to feel that Disney just takes the check and runs. Can't blame them I guess."
That should do it for now, more news later this week... see you at the park
9/22/00: Christmas Believe Fireworks Show? / Redd Rockets discount coming for APs - portions back up to size / Last weekend for the Rods... looking into the future / Country Bears change course, as does Pooh / Claiming credit for DCA / DCA Ride times / Disney, Hasbro and Mattel, of course there's more to the story... / Sharing a letter / Yes they are painting / Best wishes to two happy couples
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