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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Updates
D-I-G [Disneyland Info Guide] Update 5-21-98

Yes, it’s been awhile since the last update - but there's so much to report I needed confirmations on, [which can be so time-consuming] that I couldn't write it up sooner. [If you've been visiting the park and stopping by a.d.d. meets on Sundays, much of this will be old news.]

But first, some things have been corrected / improved at the park, and I want to take the time to note them right up front here. I'm sure most folks feel that it's important that both sides of the story get equal play - we can be fairest to the park when we call both sides of the story equally.

First of all - the parking and tram situation has vastly improved since the tram accident of a few weeks ago. Most notable is the addition of extra staffing [what seems to be Fantasmic crowd control people] to the closing shifts, and the establishment of queues to better control tram access for visitors. Trams also now for the most part run at a slightly slower pace. They even have a staffer on hand at the boarding points [at least in the Pinocchio section last week] to: Make sure strollers are folded properly, and kids are seated inside on the benches. And also to stop people from trying to get on a loaded tram when an empty one pulls up.

The best improvement is when you leave - crowds are now managed into the area - and one CM per tram section helps in getting folks on board and properly set up. This has made a vast difference in getting in and out of the esplanade area from the distant lots - although they still should seriously consider some kind of pedestrian access as a final pressure meter.

I for one am glad the park responded, but am still saddened it took the accident to get them to focus on getting the solutions up and running. With the safeguards now in place it should be much easier now to get in and out of Disneyland and the parking lots - let's hope they keep an eye on things as crowds grow with the opening of the new Tomorrowland.

As you know I've posted more than a few times about the sad state of Toontown - in particular the queue for Gadget's Go Coaster. Someone at the park was kind enough to follow-up on what I had talked about, and as of week before last this area had been painted touched / cleaned up. I want to thank that person here now for taking the interest and helping make that corner of the park. It was suggested by same that we keep our eyes open and continue to note these things - it appears that sometimes now it will take an effort on our parts to *remind* the folks in charge of park maintenance that they could do a little better in this department. [I have a follow up later in this update about the person in charge of upkeep at the park.]

Disneyland has finally reworked their web site at http://www.disneyland.com/ They've done a good job in making it look slicker - but those very attractive graphics downloads are pretty extensive, and they also need to address some of the "ease-of-usability" issues a bit more. [You have to drill down a bit to get to things - great if you want to explore - but not if you're in a hurry, like checking info from work. ;) ]. A general index page would help out a lot.

Great new things include a "Trip Wizard" along with return e-mail updates. Each attraction now gets a blurb, and lots of nice trivia is available all throughout the site. It's got an Indiana Jones-type Mickey leading you around everywhere. Missing in this site redo are the page on Walt, and any information on DCA - which of course set all sorts of rumors flying… ;)

Things that could be specifically improved: The new "DL Today" page is great for telling you what is going on each day you select [like showtimes and rehabs - VERY slick] but they got rid of the calendar listing operating hours and rehabs. Some folks would like the info also in this manner. The ordering tix online links weren't working when I checked - but everything else was pretty much up so they may have that going by the time your read this. I'm glad to see they put so much effort into it. Even with the quirks it now has in the usability department - it's still MUCH better than their previous site. It's nice to see they are continuing to improve it.

To follow up on the Tinkerbell concerns - yes she will be coming back this year - but - I was told there have been several tests of Tink effects using various technologies. The idea was not necessarily to get a cheaper effect, but one that is different, unique, and allows Tink to "perform" more. I was told that no one who's in a decision making position in Entertainment has pushed for Tinkerbulb to replace Tink. It's right now only been approved for special events (such as private parties on Main Street, etc.) or for off-season appearances (New Year's Eve, for example.)

At the Entertainment Expo recently, Creative Development showed a diagram of a rigging device that would allow Tink to fly "up" from Frontierland (her current landing position), hover around the castle, then shoot up to the Matterhorn to light the fireworks. If anything replaces the current Tink, it may be something along these lines. I like most propeller heads here online love new technology - but in this case let's hope they keep a fine park tradition going.

Someone else was kind enough to indicate that everyone should understand that SpectroMagic is NOT currently slated to come to D/L. The new "Electrical Parade" is still supposed to open after Mulan. The new name is not official yet, and it's still referred to under a number of working titles.

I also wanted to share a comment that I got on my last update about the Entertainment department, it was a revealing one: << In talking about the "generic" new character show at the Wonderbra Theater, you took a bit of a dig at the Entertainment department in the park. [Saying that, as with LM, they are only wanting to appeal to the kids, forgetting that parents might want some of the older features represented.]

Actually the original show that was proposed did indeed have a wider range of films, but that the pre-Peter Schneider product was squashed by.... guess who? ...Peter Schneider! He believes that the studio should dictate how D/L represents its product, and as far as he's concerned Disney animation did not exist before Little Mermaid. [Actually, he supposedly wanted a show that was Lion King or later.] He's also pushing for Fantasyland being re-designed to only include the new product, and then let the "old stuff" end up represented by the walk-around characters.

There are way too many people trying to decide what the entertainment at the park should be, and this is one of the reasons that LM became as muddled as it was. In trying to please every vice president who voiced an opinion, no one was pleased. (There are a lot of other reasons, too. Someone should write a book about the making of LM. It would be fascinating.) >>

I guess our postings throwing around the idea of Schneider taking over aren't as great now as we all originally thought? Well, at least he's good at tossing off Pressler zingers. I have to say, the more I read about all the pressures Pressler is under, the more I begin to understand some of the problems. I just wish he were more focused on what the park is about, and less on what seems to be the wrong things he seems to zero in on.

I keep getting a LOT of feedback about DCA's future. It either says it won't change much from initial plans, or it insists that the Disney family has led the charge to deep-six the "Lawrey's California Center" plans Pressler and his team had laid out for it, and to turn it more into a Disneyland type park. I do hear from many that Phase II will open as quickly as possible, since everyone realizes the park in Phase I is too small. As it was the park was going to open with only five attractions.

From a kind soul: << I think a lot of things have been bandied about, and there's certainly been a lot of creative infighting. Although with Disney, anything's possible at any time, the plans were to push ahead with the themes and concepts pretty much as they were. A few buildings are moving a bit or changing shape, performance space is getting re-defined, etc. but the California theme is still dominant.

The strongest presence for characters will be in the Hollywood section, tied in to animation. There have been several Little Mermaid attractions conceived (for DL as well as DCA) but none are slated for Phase I. (By the time this may be posted, there could be an Eisner level change that would throw things in chaos - but it's unlikely. Most of the construction drawings are at 70 to 100%. Pretty late in the game for any substantive changes. Phase II is still up for grabs, though.) Everyone on the DCA team just wishes they had the same budget as TDS. So you know, some of the attractions being developed for it are already being considered for DCA Phase II. >>

One other kind soul mentioned: << DCA was changing part of the farm area to be themed to an early San Francisco. It's apparently got a Discovery Bay feel to it. Then there is supposed to be a Little Mermaid attraction stuck in there somehow. How they figure to make that work is a puzzle. >> If I find out anything else, I'll let everyone know.

On the rather sore subject of park maintenance - a few weeks ago I responded to the following question from the lovely [some say even glowing] MrsChemDoc@aol.com (the charming Adrienne Krock):

> Cutbacks in maintenance, and therefore not enough
> people around to even FIX the rides when they go down?

That's one reason Adrienne - there are only FOUR techs working for most of the day part now to handle things when attractions go down. The rest of the team only works at night.

The "Fast Action Response Team" [Called "FART" for short among the unhappier CMs, and I'm NOT kidding about this] is basically overwhelmed from the time they start their shifts until the night crew comes in. All it takes is one ride down, then a second, and they just cannot get to things fast enough the rest of the day to get them back up and running in anything less than two hours.

Add to that the fact the park has been hosting an expanded "Happy Hearts" handicapped discount program over the past few weeks [which complicates ride loading causing more E-stops] and you have a situation where no matter what you do things are going to be down quite a bit. Also keep in mind this additional downtime is also the ultimate capacity killer - made even more problematical by the fact the park has NO nighttime parade or daytime stage show until late June to soak up the extra crowds not being able to ride anything.

As important as it is to keep as much of the upkeep effort "out of sight" of the visitors by doing it in off hours [Pressler had the right idea here] - they don't seem to understand the balance they need to just get them through the day efficiently enough. You'd also think they would add tech staffing if the park was going to deal with a program like Happy Hearts that makes the day more complex from an operational viewpoint.

Sadly it seems right now due to even more cut backs that the situation will only get worse - I would dread the day when they get hit by a power dip that disables every attraction in the park, and they only have four people to go around and reset things. They had their hands full when they had a full staff in summers before and this happened!

Another thing to keep in mind is that the elimination of the old lead system got rid of people supervising the attractions who would know what to do in these types of situations. Now the management layer that has replaced them is well-schooled in folding jeans at the GAP - and don't even know how to operate the attractions they oversee. It should be an interesting summer...

After posting the above I got the following from someone who knows what exactly is happening now, and this helps explain why the park is suffering from so many more breakdowns now than ever before:

Schedules are not the key issue here, complete incompetence is. First, persons who knew specific attractions were uprooted and dropped into places they knew nothing about and told to maintain the attraction at the same or higher level than before. No learning curve, just move soldier, Now, Now, NOW!!

Others were pigeon-holed into the Park's equivalent of KP, where their talents and knowledge of a facility were ignored while this facility constantly had delayed shows, aborted shows, problems continuously that these folks could have handled with minor inconvenience. It is dangerous to [upset] 10,000 people all at once, then want them to exit "in an orderly manner".

The "fart team" (aka Maintenance Response Teams [MRTs]) were not picked for their diverse knowledge, but who they knew. I must emphasize that ALL of the MRTs are very fine, talented people, regardless of craft. This should NOT be construed as a slap in their face. However, they are overwhelmed, pure and simple. With only eight to cover the entire Park, attractions recovering from a breakdown are far SLOWER to return to operational status. Also, the average time it takes to respond is greater than 30 minutes instead of the 5 (or less) the park was accustomed to in the past.

So, yes, overall appearances are scary, and do not reflect Walt's dream. What should they do? The team has suggested, complained, memo'ed, called and talked to about everyone they can think of with no success.

Now, the spoiler's been a company called McKinsey. [Al's note: This is a very IN-famous firm that specializes in "efficiency evaluations." Company managements hire firms such as this to squeeze every ounce of fat out of an operation. Sometimes they do this with no idea of how the real world situation is for the division they examine with an eye to making sure they so to justify their very high cost.] They had come in to evaluate what we did to see if there was a better way to do it, sort of a time in motion management team. They were supposed to speak with to people, determine their tasks, and tell them what they needed to do in order to maintain the Park.

Very few were interviewed, for example only TWO in one department. McKinsey then came up with a grandiose plan that said that since 85% of the work could not be done during Park open hours, 85% of the Facilities Maintenance crew would go to graveyard.

No concern was shown for personal family problems, financial impacts, car pooling, NOTHING!! For about six months, everyone went along saying "Yay!! We did it!!"; then slowly, subtle things began happening. Indy cars would stall inside the attraction, go into a Netherworld and REFUSE to move. The attraction was down the majority of the day because no one on the Response Team knew how to move the vehicle. [A gizmo called a "Merle Mobile," a sort of forklift for a dead car, was needed. No one knew how to move it through the attraction, hook it to the car and drive it out, so again Indy sat from about 11:00AM until closing.]

Stories like that began popping up all over, Star Tours, Splash, Bear Band, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder ALL had extended downs because no one knew how to work with the attractions. People formerly working on "outside animation" (the big stuff, like dioramas) were now working on Small World figurines. Electricians were ordered to work on mechanical related items, Plumbers on electrical, etc., etc.

For Fantasmic!, the Columbia dies and needs pushing more times than ever, the Twain quits and the same thing happens, regularly, many of the systems in Fantasmic! give up the ghost, or, worse get minds of their own. The only thing preventing SERIOUS problems are the checks and balances placed everywhere AND the live bodies that know what to do in emergencies.

Gen. DeWitt T Irby U.S. Army (ret.) in his take-over speech told us how incompetent everyone, managers, the Park management, were all so hopelessly incompetent it was a miracle they survived this long. He was going to lead the park to the "Promised Land" a land flowing with numerous rewards of "Atta boy"s, supervisors continuously visible sharing their wealth of knowledge and - well - you've probably heard the speeches before if you've been in a similar situation.

Dewitt ignored the fact that the Park earned numerous "Best Maintenance" Awards (not sure which, but I'll find them). He also ignored that the park has been doing this for 42 years before he came to power, and claimed that after six months of tenure he knew so much more about the Park than supervisors who had worked their way up the ranks for twenty-some odd years. [While constantly berating them as incompetent!). He then wondered why morale was at an all-time low.

DeWitt and McKinsey and their unworkable ideas and philosophies are at the root of all this! It's frustrating, though, when no one in power listens to the people on the front line, and then dumps on them when what they say comes true.

To sum it all up though - the problem is that the park's attractions will be breaking down more and more this summer, just as they have begun to do so over the last year. Let's hope they get a handle on this soon - I think it's pretty clear that visitors don't like paying premium pricing for a park with non-functioning attractions - do they?


D-I-G [DL Info. Guide] Update 4/24/98

I have bad news, and good news. I'll start with the bad because it's the most important. [Also there is a major posting I have already made (about the Tram accident) that is repeated here for folks who may have missed it.] At the very end is something very interesting you may want to read...

First of all, the rumors are true about Pressler's park "hit" list. It took me quite a while to confirm things, but confirm I did and gritting my teeth, here goes. He has decided that some things in the park will have to go [or he at least wants to generate discussions about their futures] on the following:

  • The Tiki Room [front runner replacement: a food court that runs from Plaza Pavilion over to Aladdin's Oasis]
  • The Subs [gone Labor Day - ideas have been pitched, but nothing is firmed]
  • The Tom Sawyer Island Fort [nothing concrete planned now]
  • Cascade Falls [eliminate the water at least - maybe a walkway will replace them]
  • Carnation Plaza Gardens [not the redo that was talked about before, just a complete elimination]
  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse [this is the one I cannot get any kind of lock on, other than it costs too much to upkeep]

All are fair game to reduce his overhead costs. There are possibilities of new attractions in some of the locations, but you know what the chances of that are. If it costs money, right now forget it.

I got a kindly got follow-up from someone on this subject [while I was writing this] which helped to clarify some of the things listed. I want to thank this kind person for filling me in on the following and helping add some perspective:

[begin quote] What people need to realize is that almost all the attractions are constantly under scrutiny for updating, change-overs to new attractions, etc. Just because there are several possible plans for almost every inch of real estate in the park, certainly not all of them will happen. (That much change is mutually-exclusive.) The only ones I can confirm are that the festival area (for a while at least) will be used for private parties, corporate events, and the like. There are at least four potential new projects I've heard about that are vying for the land. The other thing that is a certainty is that at some point, subs will go away. (It will probably happen after this summer but before next.) As far as I know, there has been no firm decision made yet as to what will replace it. [end quote]

This always brings up the issue of change - and why park fans are so sensitive to it. Is it bad to replace something and update it? I think it depends on the situation, attraction, and timing involved. Is it bad to just eliminate something and not replace it as may be the case here with some items? Well - I don't think that should be Disneyland's solution. The new Tomorrowland has proved they are very interested in reducing attractions and increasing vending and sponsor space - something that the park already has gone too far in doing over the past three years for too many folks.

Of all the things on that list, the Tiki Room being closed down just blows me away. They spent a ton of money to upgrade the attraction not too long ago, [tightening the show a bit really helped] and yet they scheduled it for such odd hours that it seems that it was done purposely to get the attendance down on it. Instead of bringing us the new show that was done for WDW [which, yes, has gotten some mixed reviews] - according to current plans we get a food court that will replace the teen magnet that used to be in Tomorrowland with the bands. The geniuses pushing this concept have obviously never been to a mall to see what they deal with on these food courts - all the kids with APs that the park baby-sits will find a new place to hang out and intimidate the visitors at. Let's hope this one gets reconsidered so that we either keep or get a new ATTRACTION instead of just another rows of burger stands that will all probably be closed at 6 PM most nights anyway.

My fear with the elimination of the Fort on Tom Sawyer Island is that it would most likely be replaced with some new shopping or dining alternative - some way of generating more cash. I kind of liked the idea with TSI that you could take the kids to one area of the park and not have something hawked at them. Yes, I do remember the old snack stand inside the fort in the old days - and they do maintain a fruit / drink cart now on the island on busy days. But does every square inch of the park HAVE to have a sales purpose - can't this island remain a relative respite from all this? IF the Fort needs to be replaced, replace it with a new Fort that will last longer. Don't just knock it down and put in a hot dog or plush stand.

Cascade Falls is a tough call for me. I do understand many folks do really want this to stay, and it really would take away from the view and general ambiance of the area if it were lost. But if they put in a walkway through that area - promise to keep it junk free - and replace it with a landmark just as nice [or just maybe better built to withstand a rebuilt waterfall better?] then I could understand this move. The key here is to give us more than just tearing / shutting down of this scenic landmark.

Carnation Plaza Gardens is a problem for one simple reason - Big Band Dancing is a very important part of many people's lives and a popular Disneyland tradition. If you've ever been at the bandstand on a night when they play, you come to see that the band isn't just about some older couples getting a chance to dance. It's also about providing entertainment to a segment of visitors that day that may not enjoy some of the other things the park is offering. For every kid who only loves the park for Space Mt. - there is a senior who loves going to hear the Band play. For a senior, this is their Space Mt. in a way. Everything they take away like this limits Disneyland's rather unique reach to all the different audiences it needs to continue to succeed as it has in the past. Plus I am still disappointed that we lost the wonderful show at the Golden Horseshoe for a much cheaper act and don't want to see the park reduce quality entertainment yet again at this venue.

The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse - as I said above, this is the one I cannot get any kind of lock on, other than it costs way too much to upkeep. I do know they have been eyeing the location for an Indy shop, but it takes up so little space that they are reluctant to do anything else other than just close it. Let's hope this is a bad idea that goes away fast. Walt was right in fighting everyone to do this attraction when he first proposed it, it's a timeless Disneyland classic. I would hate to see it go.

Now about the cutbacks in upkeep, I again quote someone here who was kind enough to fill me in on what exactly is happening. It's what I had thought - and what you can see for yourself upon your next visit:

[begin quote] Hosing is now down about 5 days a week and day staff has had manpower hours cut by 15%. The Park will simply be dirtier, that is a fact. It already is, and that's a shame. But is so disappointing is the thinking from upper management. People have been specifically told that "the Park no longer needs to be immaculate, it just needs to be presentable." Obviously, the many people who work all throughout the park cannot accept this mentality. They have invested too much in developing the reputation that they have always been so proud to have. It is a frustrating time to say the least.

Ironically, the only thing that can help is complaints. I would encourage you (and everyone you come in contact with) to complain if the Park isn't up to what you think is Disney standards. The CMs will still try to provide the visitors with the cleanest environment possible but many people know that this will simply not be enough.

And these cutbacks appear to be only the beginning. Word is that Attractions is about to lose their most precious privilege, rotational breaks. You want to see some bitter CMs, wait for that to happen. In the mean time, the future of the Park is apparent to many who work in it... and that means it is time to leave and soon. It's awful to think that it is going to end on such a sour note for so many. [end quote]

I myself understand the turnover now is just astounding.

Someone was kind enough to fill me in about what the future may hold for the Sailing Ship Columbia.

[begin quote] During it's last rehab in Jan./Feb. they installed a rebuilt engine that is pretty much a lemon. The idea has been floated by some in TDA that the Columbia should stop being used for Guests during the day to cut down on wear and tear. It would be parked permanently in Fowlers Harbor with maybe one CM staffed to act as a docent and give short tours and answer guests questions downstairs. Both the Columbia and the Twain have A LOT of wood rot and nagging mechanical problems and require constant TLC. The Twain is actually in worse shape structurally and mechanically, but I imagine it has a better chance of getting the intensive rehab it deserves. As for the Columbia, who knows? [end quote]

Someone posted about last Sunday's mute Pirate ride that many a.d.d. folks got to do - it was a blast. For some reason, ever since the rehab, they have been having numerous problems keeping the attraction running smoothly. Pirates is down quite a bit now - and sometimes in the rush to get it back open, they may not always notice what needed to be done to get it up to full speed. Last Sunday we got on JUST as they started letting folks on, and the minute we saw that the skull above us wasn't talking we knew there was no sound throughout the ride.

It was quite a change, and actually VERY interesting to do the ride in this manner - boats quietly floating through the scenes, with only a few wisecracks being made - and the hissing of the anamatronic's hydraulics. It was an education in the art of dramatic use of sound and also how many things worked, since you could hear the mechanics behind most of the effects. When we got back to the load station, the CMs were kind enough to allow us to ride again without having to get off, it was the perfect capper to see everything with the sound now on so soon again. Special thanks go to the CMs who helped make this one time slip into something a fan would really appreciate by letting us stay on board and ride though again.

As you've all read online, it appears some progress has finally been made lately with park specific merchandise! From a nifty new Disneyland-unique Matterhorn T-shirt, to a set of wonderful cloisonné pins that spotlight individual DL attractions, they finally are getting in the kinds of items customers have been asking for over the past three years.

The pins [available both at the Emporium and over at the DL Hotel] are especially nice - priced at six bucks, they not only spotlight current attractions like Small World, but long gone attractions like the old TL Viewliner. Main St. and ToonTown have multiple pins available, with different area buildings featured on them. Main St. has the Market House for example, and City Hall, ToonTown offers Mickey's and Minnie's houses. My favorite was the old Space Man from TL, the same design as the one featured at the entrance of the Disney Gallery above Pirates. Judging from the empty hooks on some of the racks, my guess here is that sales are already off to a roaring start here with these items.

Continuing with merchandising info.- Baloo's Bargains has reopened at the Seaports of the Pacific location in the Disneyland Hotel Marina complex - lots of stuff at 50% off again. Notice the huge amount of Pooh stuff in particular. Looks like that silly 'ol bear has finally been over exposed to where it might go away soon... ;)

Outdoor Vending has had some really bad problems lately with quality merchandising - the following I got from someone who was kind enough to fill me in:

[begin quote] Unfortunately, management's attempts to make every corner of the Park belch cash has changed my mind somewhat on that. Two weeks ago I saw the worst (blemish, disfigurement, abomination?) attempt at outdoor sales yet. The former Ice Cream Train from Small World Way had been converted into yet another place to sell glow necklaces and wands. It had been decked out with flashing colored lights, a red police car bubble, and a boombox blasting the Mouse House CD. My irritation was turned into fury when I noticed that the string of lights was DUCT TAPED to the sides of the train! Outdoor Merchandising is now apparently using Hollywood Blvd. as its model of marketing success. [end quote]

I guess this is revenge from ODV about all our comments on how tacky the glow roses were? 

For all that were wondering about some of the maximum attendance numbers at the park, here is the following: The record was broken July 4, 1987 at 87,000 (they had never gone above that prior to 1987). That record stood until sometime during the MSEP performance. I will try and find that out and fill you in on it when I can.

Folks at the DL HOTEL offered the following info: Monorail Cafe is history in Sept. or Oct. of this year. The current Goofy's will also be gone at the same time. Stromboli's will become the new Goofy's with character dining. Neon Cactus will also be closing at that time with no current plans for relocating it. Shipyard Inn will be down during the Marina construction time for changes, there is talk of making it a Caribbean-themed restaurant. It will come back for dinner only menu, but then it will change to three meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) in Jan. 1999. Sailmakers Den, located under Shipyard Inn, will become a second coffee house / Maizies. (Coffee and breakfast items in the AM, them packaged salads, sandwiches, etc. in the noon and afternoon.) Warf Bar will become a micro-brewery location. Carnation Ice Cream location will be converted to fix hamburgers and fries. Granville's will become more of a "real" steakhouse.


D-I-G [DL Info Guide] Update - 4/8/98

When you pick up your Disneyland Today guide now at the gate, you'll notice it's grown about an inch taller, and it continues to feature more ads than ever before. BTW it's nice after all the waiting to see them pushing attraction specific T-shirts in it - I guess we here online were right to ask for this kind of merchandise.

I've eaten two meals now at the new Redd Rockets Pizza Port, I thought I would offer my two cents here on it. First of all, they should reconsider offering the AP / MK discount here - the excuses they give for not offering it [supposedly it's cheaper fast food?] just don't make any sense with pricing higher than just about any other comparable location in the park. Most companies reward their frequent customers with special offers, pricing or deals, Disneyland continues to try and ignore this segment of their market.

The food is good - but is offered in an customer unfriendly manner portion-wise. After speaking to fellow a.d.d. diners we all came up with a good solution to this - basically if you are eating with another person you should purchase a single pasta and salad for both of you, then request an additional plate to split each. This way you can get both pasta and salad and the huge portions allow for plenty for both at a more reasonable price. It basically halves the price you would pay if you purchased both items for yourself.

If the management were smart, they'd offer a combo plate [half portions of any salad and pasta] at the price they now charge for either item - it would be a terrific seller. The Chicken pasta and the Pizza salad make an especially good combo. It's best for now to avoid the Pizza itself, it is a poor value, and is just not that good. The desserts are OK, but with all the other sweets offered at the park that are better, you can skip this too. A major bone I have to pick here is that the pasta is served on a plastic plate - insuring it will turn cold way before you finish eating it.

The major standout about the Pizza Port is the staff - they are simply terrific way and above the normal high Disney standards. I have been very impressed with their efforts to work with their customers and offer assistance and help wherever possible. They help make dining here worthwhile, despite VP of foods Mike Berry's customer unfriendly decisions regarding discounts and the location's overall high pricing.

On another note: It took the ODV / Foods folks to finally put out a great looking park specific souvenir item - it's a $4.50 New Tomorrowland drink cup with a huge squeeze-able plastic [for lack of a better word] sculpture that sits on top that the straw goes through. The blue gold and silver painted cup topper has the Astro Orbiter jets and some of its orbs, a Tomorrowland logo and various other little plastic representations of some of the building spires on it. Just about every a.d.d. reader I ran into over the weekend had purchased one, and when I was sipping my lemonade out of mine, several people came over to me and asked where I purchased it - it's that nifty looking, if expensive. They do require a bit of assembly, which some CMs are grumbling about. But they are a great item in the Disneyland desert of park specific merchandise.

One bummer - rather than this item being the first of several cups depicting all the other lands in the park, they seem to have only thought of doing TL - the others in the series will be generic character topped, with Aladdin, Pooh and such. Let's hope they look into doing all the lands. If you want to see how out of touch the Merchandise still is, you may also want to look at a cup they did for New Orleans Sq. that you can purchase at the Candy Cart in front of Cafe Orleans. This cup costs seven bucks and is much plainer and smaller. It has no unique plastic top, they've only screened a rather generic logo on the side. Needless to say I left it on the cart without purchasing it.

Over in Fantasyland the massively ugly Fantasyland Theatre tent has produced some other problems. Weekend before last they had hurriedly opened up the facility early to host some Cheerleading championships. When they went to put in the old bleachers in the upper decks they found out that the two huge massive tent poles had ended up blocking the view of the stage for over half of each upper seating area. So not only is this tent ugly - but it has ended up reducing viewing / seating capacity for this venue.

The DL Line had a front page article detailing it - the article was notable for two things: First, they made a point of saying they are going to try and hide it from Main St.. Second, they came right out and said the tent design was settled on and built to save money. The article also noted they are going to theme it a bit for a medieval look. This basically means fusing fiberglass star moon and sun icons all over the top of it, and also adding a gold sun to one tent pole top and a gold moon to the other pole. Banners will be hung inside to try and hide the huge catwalks all above the audience area.

Again, they weren't thinking things out - this medieval theme [especially with the banners and such] will surely clash with whatever movie tie-in production they will host here in the future. Compare this to the previous facility that before could change chameleon-like to the demands of each production like Pocahontas and Beast - and you'll see just how ill conceived this mess was from the beginning.

Over in ToonTown they've added a slushy stand - but unlike the normal ODV carts you normally see hawking this stuff, they actually built a small travel trailer that Goofy might have used to house the freezer units in. They've done a nice job detailing it - complete with a Mickey shaped lock on the gate to it, even tire marks in the cement that show one of the tires was flat when it was rolled into place. My only complaint [and this goes for many new signs and such in Tomorrowland also] is that they stopped with all of the thematic detailing on the back of the trailer. Normally if you couldn't see this it wouldn't be such a big deal, but the queue for Goofy's Bounce House runs right behind it for all to see.

MISC: * Overall the park has been looking much cleaner, everyone appears to have been working harder to keep things looking their best. * I have noticed that in the men's rooms they have had quite a few problems with non-working facilities lately. Lots of trash bags over urinals lately.

* Casa Mexicana, the restaurant in Frontierland is planning to add a new Strawberry Daiquiri cheesecake this month. I cannot recommend this location highly enough because of the incredible efforts being made here by its terrific manager. She has really improved the food since starting there, and is always out with the customers asking how things are going. :)

* Parking continues to be problematic, one real problem they are dealing with is the fact that many tram riders do NOT speak English - they should work on having multi-language announcements both on board the trams and while loading them. Too many times I've seen large groups of people take that long drive out to Pinocchio when they are actually parked in Simba, using up precious space on crowded trams during the mass exodus at park closing. If they would just make the announcements in both Spanish and English they'd solve 90% of this problem.


DCA Dead? - D-I-G [DL Info Guide] Update 3/11/98

It appears as of this past few weeks that the plans for California Adventure have gone back to the drawing board, with even the concept being totally questioned and rethought. From what I can gather, and what a few folks have suggested and strongly feel, it may be scrapped entirely. I had wondered what was going on before I heard this - especially since they hadn't even progressed beyond the awful poster they made since first announcing it, even continuing to hide the preview center. If true, this would also explain why Pressler has been in non-stop meets about it the last few weeks.

I have a feeling a lot of things led to this - primarily the fact that the Asian economic crisis would affect their plans to expand the current locals-based visitor base for the resort to pull in the non-locals that they were designing this park for. Taking a hard honest look at what they were planning to offer could have revealed that they would be designing a park that would not pull in the bucks in during the off season, like Disneyland itself now does.

Also the purchase of Knott's and Six Flags [with their new and more aggressive managements with the increased emphasis on new attractions and high-end thrill rides], along with some major new investments being made at Universal, probably also refocused them. This dramatic change in what the competition will be offering could have very clearly showed that the shopping / dining park they had envisioned, with visitors gazing upon bread baking and a small farm, was just not going to be a very competitive entry. They probably weren't going to be seeing any stampedes towards Anaheim in this newly re-jiggered marketplace.

So how will all this affect what is going on right now in the parking lot? My feelings here are that the basic earthmoving, plumbing and electrical will continued to be laid in under the current plans. It could be that they would possibly retain the major elements such as the lake and where most other major structures [such as the legit type theater they are planning and new hotel] getting built while the rest gets sorted out. Perimeter roads and the adjacent mall - which is really based upon Downtown Disney in WDW design and concept, would continue full speed ahead.

Could the whole thing still end up back to the point where it originally started? Maybe. But I feel strongly, judging from the conversations I've had and communications I've seen that what ends up in that lot in the next few years could very well reflect another vision than the one that has been touted since the original announcement.

And people wonder why this subject is so fascinating to me. ;) BTW - there are concerns that the new eight-story parking garage they will build in the old campgrounds may be seen over the trees on Rivers of America.

The other big news is that last Friday [3/6] they had the latest round of "early retirements" at Disneyland. To quote a note sent to me: "It seems that anyone that wasn't "in" the inner circle of Mr. Pressler, (Old time Disney people, like Jim Cora) were "retired!" I guess that if you remembered anything about Walt [or maybe even knew who he was?] you were on the hit list." More room for Disney Stores transfers?

I'm hoping they get rid of the tacky looking plastic nubs left from the Christmas lights on the facade of Small World. The Tom Sawyer Island bathrooms are still in dire need of a rehab. The Frontierland Shooting Gallery "4th of July" fireworks decor on the sign top has been replaced and refreshed - this was very nice to see.

A wonderful person working at the park wrote me: "A sign painter just fixed Dopey at Snow White exit in the mural. His eyes were brown and needed to be blue. Remember, when you find little things that are broken/wrong like that, they can usually get it fixed." So keep posting what you see folks, it does help them out at DL in getting the details right, we have to give our thanks to these kind and dedicated folks. [Credit also is due to this same person who helped get the "Bones" mouse ears glued back on the Indy skeleton, placed the Eeyore sign in the Indy queue, and is the one behind the "Hidden Mickey" Haunted Mansion ballroom plates.] :)


WHY THE NEW TRAM LOT IS SUCH A FAILURE

For weeks now I've been scratching my head as to why the tram loading area at Disneyland is such a failure in routing visitor traffic in and out of it, with a design that never took basic things such as shade or shelter for visitors in mind.  Thanks to the very kind Werner Weiss, he located the following site on designer MARTHA SCHWARTZ. Here's the part of the above page that dealt with her, keep in mind this is NOT a humor or joke posting, this stuff is for REAL. I've made a few comments here and there:

Martha Schwartz Design Garden
Martha Schwartz is an internationally recognised landscape designer and artist based at Cambridge, Massachusetts. She grabbed international attention with her design for a garden in Boston, which featured bagels set on gravel in a formal hedged garden.

JUST the person I want to design an area that should be focused on efficient crowd control? (Werner also noted that DL COULD have wound up with bagels or frogs.  ;)   )

Her gardens challenge the concept of a garden. Typically Martha uses unusual materials (350 yellow plastic frogs featured in one garden), a bold, bright palette of colours (referred to as Day-Glo colours) and shows a sense of fun and desire to entertain.

That's why the place is studded with massive cement green cones I guess.

The Nancy Dickenson garden in Santa Fe is pure Martha Schwartz style but incorporating influences from the local Santa Fe area and from the great Moorish gardens of Spain such as the Alhambra. Extraordinary geometry and brilliantly vibrant colours surround the subtle adobe house. From the garden can be seen the arid New Mexico landscape stretching to the snow capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Martha Schwartz approaches garden design first and foremost as an artist. Her gardens are not about plants but treat the landscape as a piece of sculpture.

So then, maybe then the needs of the DL visitor aren't quite foremost in her mind?

Features of the Dickenson garden include: A sunken courtyard with a grid of fountains and runnels, tiled in bright colours like blue, red and green. The runnels reflect the Moorish influence on the design. There are crabapples growing in the courtyard each surrounded with white marble boulders used as an exaggerated gravel mulch.

OK... HERE is [if you haven't already] where you get the idea this person MAY have been the wrong choice for the job...

The rules of gardening are broken in the courtyard with no path or direction given to those visiting the garden.

Exactly what a place like DL does NOT need wouldn't you think?

Grassy roof terrace and platform allows the surrounding landscape to be viewed from the hillside home. The platform is terraced in Arizona sandstone and looks out to the mountains. Plants are used with dramatic effect, like purple flowers placed in black pots.

To see photographs of some of Martha's landscape designs consult: Martha Schwartz - Transfiguration of the Commonplace Designing the New Landscape by S. Lyall (Florilegium Press)

Martha Schwartz Inc.
Room 310 - 25 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge MA 02138
Phone: 617 661 8141. Fax: 617 661 8707

You know, I have to say I do understand the need for daring and fresh design sometimes.   But I would think the first thing they need to think about before even contracting something out is HOW the design will serve the people who will use it.  Werner was kind enough to also write the following, and allow me to quote it, I do so because quite frankly I can't say it any better:

When I compare the new tram loading area at Disneyland to the bus loading area near the entrance to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the design in Florida is the clear winner.  It blends well with the Main Street railroad station, and it helps to set the mood of a visit to another place and time.  It's not architecturally daring or even particularly interesting -- but the bus loading area in Florida is functional (good signing and protection from rain and sun), safe (clear delineation between pedestrian space and bus routes), and contextually appropriate to its setting.

The tram loading area at Disneyland may be cutting edge design, but its location doesn't call for cutting edge design.  The people who designed the ticket booths and the promenade at Disneyland's entrance understood this.

I'm glad that Eisner cares about architecture.  As a result, The Walt Disney Company has built some wonderful buildings.  But Eisner wouldn't feature a Michael Graves building in a turn-of-the-century period movie because it would be out of place -- in fact, it would destroy the illusion.  The same thinking needs to be applied to Disneyland.  And it's not just the tram loading area.  Consider the new Fantasyland Theater -- where was the effort to make it fit in with Fantasyland?

I myself think it's time that the folks at Disneyland get back to basics and try to deal with these kinds of things from the CUSTOMER'S point of view.  As I've said before NO one here on the newsgroup seems to be against any change. Change is good.   But BAD quality change is what the problem is here - and that's what needs to be addressed.

The kinds of problems we see with this tram area, and frankly, have been dealing with in the past few years now with poor merchandise, closed restaurants, and shows that don't fit into the environment they were designed for seem to all fall in to this same situation:   the people behind these decisions seemingly have LOST their ability to see things from the CUSTOMER'S point of view.

The new tram loading area at Disneyland is quite simply BAD quality change. They need to go back to square one and remember just what the purpose of it was in the first place. THEN they should design it from that point on don't you think?


DL'S LATEST ATTRACTION: MAMMARY MT

I made the following posting a few weeks ago about DL's latest eyesore:

John, I saw this "thing" not to mention you can see it anywhere in Fantasyland. Walking around to take a closer look - you come to realize there are two huge poles hold up the canvas. And it is HUGE. No finesse here. It totally overwhelms the area.

Already this behemoth is drawing comparisons to Madonna's pointy bra [just add tassels] or Dolly Parton's Dollywood moving in next to ToonTown. Maybe it should be renamed "Jessica Rabbit's Mammary Mountain?" Why is it that when Entertainment wants to put anything into the park [since Fantasmic, which they did blend into the park much better] - they have to take away from the beauty and scale that has been so carefully planned for it by these support facilities?

Light Magic's way too many towers trashed Small World Way, and decreased the ability to take photos of the whimsical Small World Facade. This new Fantasyland Theater "tent" is so huge, instead of the theater blending in like it did before, [quite well I have to say] it overwhelms the area and adjacent skyline and attractions.

I do understand Entertainment wants a state-of-the-art facility, and the tent will allow them to facilitate better presentations - but I don't think the tech issues should overwhelm the environment they reside in. This is just poor design, inconsiderate of the area it is placed in.

In the wonderful "Nickel Tour" book there is a very revealing photo of how they used to plan and think out any additions to the park. It shows a propped up wood frame on Tom Sawyer Island, which approximated how the fort's profile built there would look. Walt and the designers would travel around the island, on the train and the Mark Twain, looking at how the silhouette fit in. Once they did that, they drew the final plans and built it confident it would fit into the landscape in the most pleasing way. Attractions and shows should work within and enhance the environment of Disneyland, NOT detract from it.

What the Entertainment department seems to fail to understand is that the shows are just a part of the entertainment package that makes up Disneyland. The attractions and environment are just as important, or in this case probably warrant more attention than this theater, which will probably only see continual use on a holiday and seasonal basis.

Change is good, a great facility would allow for possibly better shows. But the quality of this change, and how it interacts with the elements that make the park so special in the first place is poor.

Thanks!
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Why the new tram lot is a failure

Mammary Mt.

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