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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update
11/29/00 UPDATE: New Annual Passports debut this week / Believe Fireworks to go year round / Photo Updates: New Frontierland Restaurant & California Adventure / 102 Dalmatians scuttlebutt - Monsters Inc. sneak preview / Fastpass progress & upcoming Pirates rehab / Hotel trams back to their old stops / Disneyland website additional info / Eisner still worried about e-mail / Splash Mountain collector's item


New Annual Passports debut this week

The word is out, the new Annual Passports (APs) - some levels of which will include admission into the new park - go on sale sometime this week. Expect a pro-rated "discount" if you purchase / renew your passports before the new park opens. We'll update this section once the prices are announced. Frankly, expect it to be some kind of price increase in some way shape form or manner. It's probably another reason that they moved the AP processing over to bigger quarters in the former Plaza Pavilion restaurant location too.

Looks like resorts head Paul Pressler finally understood just how important the locals were to the bottom line, eh?

11/30/00 LATE UPDATE: New AP information is now up on the PRICES page - we'll add more (in particular about current passholders updating) as it develops.


Believe Fireworks to go year round

In what may be setting up the demise of Fantasmic (which we discussed in the past update) - they've apparently decided to continue the regular "Believe" fireworks shows year-round now on Fridays and Saturdays at Disneyland. (There will be one dark weekend, between the end of the holiday version, and the start back up of the past edition.)

There were rumors floating about that we almost lost the "Believe" show all together - due to some kind of rights problems. (Phil Collins wanted more moola? ;) ) But it seems that everything is back on track again.


Photo Updates: New Frontierland Restaurant & California Adventure

In the past I've done some updates that were almost all photos, and they've been quite popular. This time around we've got a lot of shots that don't quite make enough for a normal section update for either the DCA or Rehabs section - so I've given you sort of a mini photo update here... all were taken this past weekend.

First up, are two shots kindly provided by David Lane of the Frontierland restaurant rehab taken looking in - and boy, it looks NICE in there!

We start below in the first shot with the new sign outside. Even though they didn't theme the whole place to Zorro as they had hoped, he still makes an appearance... note the name Rancho del Zocalo, as we had mentioned here before.

Frontierland restaurant

In this next shot below, you can see how you can walk from the entrance area of the restaurant all the way out to the former Carnation Gardens area off the hub. (The wall to the right borders the Frontierland shooting gallery.) There are restrooms in that area between the two lands, (behind the shooting gallery) both are very nicely done...

Frontierland restaurant

The view below is from the former Carnations Garden area into the restaurant itself - you can see the archway shown below in the above shot at the end of the walkway.

Frontierland restaurant

Outside the park, on the construction wall in front of the new California Adventure park, we see the following sign (below) - which is apparently the new park's map artwork. We'll have a larger graphic available soon for you to look at - it's (as with the map of Disneyland used in the guides) interesting how they make it all look.

DCA map

In the parade warehouse out back behind the big coaster, you can now peek in and see one of the new parade floats. These suckers look larger than the Light Magic units - if they aren't one and the same at least in the chassis. Rumor has it many of the people involved with the parade are a bit dismayed with what it's supposed to be. Apparently it seems to be getting a bit "arty" - and, well we know what happened when they went that route the last time... graduation music right? ;)

DCA parade float

Meanwhile, just on the other side of the warehouse above, you can see the carnie booths shaping up for the Paradise Pier section of the park. They seem to be everything that a carnival would be in their design and look... sigh.

DCA booths

At the newly renamed Paradise Pier (formerly Pacific) Hotel across the street they have torn out all the artwork in the lobby and replaced it with concept art for the new park. Below you can see the logo for the carnival section of the park, it's part of a larger presentation...

Paradise Pier logo

...for what appears to be the "Sideshow Shirts" shop. Besides the bearded lady and the tattooed strongman...

Paradise Pier logo

...there is ONE bit of artwork that seems to show what maybe Walt Disney would think of this park if he'd lived to see it built:

Walt's feelings?

Finally, for all of you that asked, here is the new logo for the whole resort, which is used in referencing both parks and the hotels at any time. Disneyland will retain its old logo, and the new park has its own design too when just referring to those parks singly.

Disneyland Resort logo


102 Dalmatians scuttlebutt - Monsters Inc. sneak preview

Well, very few people in Burbank were surprised that Dalmatians opened so poorly - if anything I understood there was some kind of pool as to how low the numbers would actually be. Everyone sort of figured Grinch would do a bang up job - but even the folks at Universal had no idea just how huge that movie would end up being.

But Burbank did know 102 was weak enough that they didn't bank much on it, and that was apparently one of the reasons Emperor's New Groove was pushed into quickly following it. The merchandise for 102 at the Disney Stores as I understand it has not been moving either - but they already have the stuff shipping in for Emperor's, so it does as well as they expect, they will be fine for the last part of the holiday season.

Meanwhile, as they cut their losses on 102 (it even seems from what one wag in Burbank told me that this movie was one of the reasons Joe Roth was sort of invited to move on to a new job) they are in preparation for next year's Monsters Inc. from PIXAR. So, you may be asking, how much are they banking on that one?

Well, a few weeks ago they had screenings of the rough assembly of the film at the Lincoln Theater for Disneyland key personnel - to help get them thinking and pumped up for how the resort will tie into it upon release.

Could that mean some kind of ride or attraction for it? We'll see. Apparently they feel confident enough about it to take it beyond just the parade or show they would normally do at the park. And the PIXAR folks would like to get something into Disneyland soon. (The Buzz Lightyear dark ride in Tomorrowland may still be pretty far off.)


Fastpass progress & upcoming Pirates rehab

As you may all have guessed, the Mansion Fastpass was delayed. It was supposed to open November 17th, then it was pushed to the 22nd, and now it may open the 29th. It appears that they just don't have enough skilled contractors to get all the projects done in time. Small World Holiday was supposed to open with Fastpass on the 10th, and they couldn't get it open until the 20th, etc.

The Mansion Fastpass location is a very nicely themed "secret garden" environment, and when it is done it will nicely "plus" the area and the Show. But the Project Management folks took on more than they could handle with trying to get four major new Fastpass locations up and running, with three existing locations rebuilt and rethemed, in just a couple of months.

It really isn't anyone's fault at Disneyland that the new Fastpass locations are behind schedule, although perhaps the Project Management team was just a tad too optimistic with their timeline. They were simply given a major task and told that there was no other option but to accomplish it.

Paul Pressler decreed in early 2000 that the major Fastpass pilot program of 1999 was a success and that Fastpass should be added to all E Ticket Attractions at all Parks in North America and Paris. The profit potential is so huge, and the marketing advantage so popular with visitors, that no time should be wasted in getting Fastpass installed permanently in all Parks according to Pressler.

The Oriental Land Company also joined in after seeing the potential for increased profits and visitor satisfaction. But the OLC also joined the Fastpass bandwagon in a desire to provide a unified front with their sister Disney Parks around the world. The Japanese didn't want to be known as "the Disney Park without Fastpass."

Pirates Fastpass is simply on hold. There is a pavement contractor doing some very nice pavement treatments to the west side of the courtyard (the portion currently behind the construction walls). That will eventually be the switchbacks for the Standby Queue. The Fastpass machines will be in the east side of the Pirates courtyard, but work has not even begun yet. Pirates was supposed to have Fastpass at the end of November, but now they are just trying to get Star Tours and Mansion online before they begin on Pirates. The Pirates Fastpass installation will be a fairly easy install since not a lot will need to be done to the courtyard in the way of themeing or reconstruction. But, since work has not even begun yet, everyone is crossing their fingers that it will be completed before Christmas Eve and the massive crowds that will descend the week between Christmas and New Years Day.

Before we forget here, in 2001 Pirates will close for 6 weeks from late February thru early April for a refurbishment. Work will continue on replacing sections of the flume, some preventative maintenance to the ride system, and a general cleaning of the facility will occur. Nothing major in the "Show" department will be added or changed, unlike last years major rehab. But, station gates will be added to the loading dock of Pirates during this rehab for safety reasons. Eventually, almost all Disney attractions that involve ride vehicles moving thru a station area will have station gates installed.

A note on using Fastpass from reader and Annual Passholder Jeff:

I recently received my new annual passport in the mail and brought both the old (still valid) and new cards to the park. Just thought I'd pass on that I was able to receive a FastPass with each card. It made sense to renew early, at least this time.

Interesting. Meanwhile I am getting a LOT of complaints about how Fastpass is causing many passholders problems - apparently the system the way it is set up now favors the casual visitor, in that for the popular rides like Splash Mountain passes get all given out early in the day. Many passholders / locals tend to show up for dinner, or after work, so they miss out on getting Fastpasses and have to endure the longer standby lines.

Can this be fixed? Well, the system can allow it with the proper programming. Keep in mind that premium passes could be sold also that would always insure you getting a ticket even if it they booked the times pretty solidly - by setting aside a block of tickets for premium passes only.

By the way, speaking of all that is possible with this system, we haven't even seen yet what they have planned for this program at Disney in the future. To quote one person, "they underestimated just how valuable this will be." Expect a lot more to happen soon - all in the how to generate more cash with it mode.

Rumor also has it that Universal Studios in Hollywood joins the ranks of parks aping Fastpass with a test installation for the Jurassic Park ride coming soon. If successful, expect it all all their major rides by this summer. MousePlaneteer Todd Regan will have more info on this soon in his Universal Studios Guide here on MousePlanet.


Hotel trams back to their old stops

As you may have read in the last update - Disneyland at one point just before the holiday ended up moving the Disney Hotel tram stops out into the middle of the Simba lot, making for a long walk for visitors to these premium priced hotels.

Well, on Sunday last week we saw that they had moved the tram stop back to the original location that was closer. Apparently, from what I understood, many of the hotel visitors basically gave them all sorts of grief about it.

Yes, they need to work on those areas. But they really do need to take into consideration just how it will affect customers when they do something like that. Hopefully this will help keep them more aware of the problems these kinds of decisions make for.


Disneyland website additional info

In the last update I'd made a few comments about the redo of the Disneyland website in which I wondered about how closely the park works with the site designers and maintainers. After the item went up, I got the following comments from someone who knows about all this stuff:

I just read your review of the new Disneyland website and I'm not really sure I understand what you are getting at.

Pretty much all of the content on the site is prepared in Anaheim. The programming and some of the design and art work is done in the valley, but text and info content originates at TDA (Team Disney Anaheim).

Were you under the impression that the content was assembled in Florida or something? If so, that is completely incorrect. Even the folks in the valley who primarily work on the site are very frequent visitors to the park.

Thanks for the note as to how it all works. But oddly enough, even after knowing all that, the site still seems very disconnected to the park to myself and many of the readers who send me e-mail commenting on it. Maybe it's just in how they approach it?


Eisner still worried about e-mail

Many of you may remember the news item from a few months ago about Eisner's warnings on the use of e-mail.

Apparently he is still spooked by the whole net thingie, as below are some comments he just made (quoted by the Economist magazine) on the danger of "blind carbon copy" e-mail within companies [the item was originally posted Nov. 22, 2000]:

I have come to believe that if anything will bring about the downfall of a company or maybe a country, it is blind copies of e-mails that should have never been sent.

I wonder if he's still on AOL? Or maybe he's finally moved up to a real ISP?


Splash Mountain collector's item

Apparently they have pulled all the "I survived Splash Mountain" t-shirts that they were selling at the park. With the recent death in Walt Disney World's version of the ride it even apparently sparked a bit of a run on the shirts before they were yanked.

I wonder when they'll all start to pop up on ebay?


OK, enough for now, see you at the park.

11/21/00 UPDATE: Calling 911 / Return of the Electrical Parade canceled - thank DCA / Fantasmic's farewell season / Hotel sign removed / Creepy heads / FastPass delays / New smoking areas / Annual Passholder processing center to be moved / New Disneyland web site / A note about Universal's efforts


Calling 911

Recently DIAL 911 stickers have begun appearing next to all the phones within Disneyland:


No memos I guess, but the new policy seems very clear - don't delay in calling emergencies in to 911. That should speed help in.


Return of the Electrical Parade canceled - thank DCA

They were going to bring it back with all new music and new technology. That got axed because of budgets.

Then it was coming back MINUS a section (no Pinocchio units) with the same music and just enough funds to get the units here from Orlando and running again.

The reason this time for the cancellation is that they are terrified of overshadowing the new California Adventure Park (DCA for short) - since the return of the parade would probably draw more attention than they seem to be able to generate for the stripped down new park.

The good thing here is that if they decide later they want it back - it may return as it should, i.e. rebuilt and redesigned for the latest technology and with a redone soundtrack. My personal opinion here - it would be better to do this one right, than just bring back what was getting to be a stale presentation (in its last few years before the farewell) to the park.

Of course since head honcho Paul Pressler seems to get his biggest successes by closing things people have an attachment to, it's brought this new possibility to light:


Fantasmic's farewell season

As much as the foods and outdoor vending folks would like this kept (it helps pump sales each night it is performed, and since they are always making their profit nuts they seem to get most of what they want) the sheer size of the cost to run it is still terrifying the budgeteers to death. (The costs likely run about $20,000 for the first show, a bit less for second and those rare third performances.)

It's still being discussed - but the possibility exists that the show will get a farewell season to help pump up attendance should the new park not pull them in as they had wanted. Should DCA do well - it would only serve to delay the farewell season by a year.

This time around though, unlike the Electrical Parade, they will present the whole thing in such a manner so it can be brought back at some future time - so no "flowing away forever" here I guess...  ;)


Creepy Heads...


The ESPN Zone in the new mall (above) has a very creepy new addition - bobbing heads to all the sculpted slabs of athletes they have up. The effect is, well... for lack of a better word here, just rather creepy. See for yourself with the following MPEG video:

Click for 500k MPEG video clip
Click for 500k MPEG video clip

Yes, they all creak too... why does this look like something that belongs on the back window shelf of a Buick?


Disneyland Hotel sign removed...

Down it comes...
Down it comes... came down last week. I wonder if it's because it would shine into the new hotel's windows and the new park too?


FastPass delays

They are having contractor problems with both the Pirates and Mansion FastPass installations - so they may not make it for this Thanksgiving weekend. Everything else is just about ready - and you can see some of the results of the successful (and not so successful) theming in the Rehabs pages today here on the D-I-G.


Annual Passholder processing center to be moved

For the holiday passholder renewal crunch - (an awful lot of them get given as Christmas presents) - it looks like they will be temporarily moving the AP processing center to the Plaza Pavilion restaurant until after the first of the year.

Expect even more pushes by the park to sell these passes - basically this is how they are growing attendance now, since no figures are released showing how many of the yearly admissions are locals with passes or regular tourist visitors.

Of course, with the move of this into the Pavilion - it means they have to move the smoking section...


New smoking areas

New smoking areas now (since the Mansion FastPass installation has also disabled that area) will be located around the Radio Disney booth in Tomorrowland (pretty dumb - turn a kids radio show studio into a smoking section!) and over by the old Fantasyland Autopia loading area (which is now an off road section for the ride) across from the Matterhorn.

It's amazing how busy the old areas were - the Plaza Pavilion in particular was usually packed with few empty seats.


Look who has a brick! Now where's Eisner's and Pressler's?
Look who has a brick! Now where's Eisner's and Pressler's?


New Disneyland web site

Disneyland redid the official site a few weeks ago (I finally got to go all through it) - and, yes, it's very attractive looking. But... (hey, you KNEW there would be a BUT, right?) ...many of you who've written don't really seem to like it much.

Many of your complaints I also tend to agree with - "not easy to use" - "not helpful" - "inadequate information" - "stale." Well the list goes on, and on - and in checking my e-mail box just now again, it continues to go on.

Keep in mind the following here folks - most of the things you complain most about are done on purpose. For example, it's to the park's benefit to keep you unaware of discounts, so they can book you at higher non- discounted prices. Reservation agents on the phone are instructed to NOT offer anything unless you specifically know to ask for it. Also of course since it's the official site, they can't detail what could be less exciting things for you or problems, since everything is always supposed to be perfect. (One word here: Innoventions) Prices are not included for the most part since they don't want you to get an idea of what you'll be spending on or give you the ability to compare.

A few of the other problems with the site happen because they have people working on it who really don't interact with the park itself. They don't frequent it - and are fairly removed physically from what is going on there day to day. For example, if you've ever had a job where you worked on one coast, and the head office was on another, you might know what this can be like. Living and working in L.A. is a different experience than living and working in mid-town Manhattan. Smart management understands techniques that work in one part of the country won't somewhere else.

Will it ever change? We could hope. But that's how things are run now. And it's a problem all across the company, not just with their websites. At least with this last redo, it was an attempt to do something for the site visitor. I'll give them credit for that.


A note about Universal's efforts

Universal's main gate during the holidays
Universal's main gate during the holidays

As you all know, MousePlanet has been constantly expanding since we opened the doors last July. One of the great things about this is how it is allowing us to cover other parks and how they run things.

Todd Regan has done a spectacular job with the Universal Studios Hollywood portion of the site - and working with him on it has allowed me to look a bit more into what they are doing now.

They have come a LONG way from when I first worked there for a year between record company jobs. [Castle Dracula opened and failed that Summer - it was their Light Magic I guess - I used to hop the shuttle down to the lower lot and watch them film movies while I ate my lunch.]

Yes, it's not Disneyland - they do need a bit more attention to detail and a bit more care - but they have been working hard on improving and maintaining what they offer.

Some examples: They've improved the tram tour with DVD video playback - although I'm not a fan of T2:3D I do understand how well it is produced and how well it continues to be presented - and they made a terrific effort to tie in with the Grinch movie (Um, Disneyland - don't we get a parade or anything anymore to celebrate the newest movies, Dalmatians and Groove?)

They aren't perfect: They need a lot of work to clean up their outdoor vending (it's pretty ugly and doesn't look as spit spot clean as Disney's) - they tend to not understand the concept of character walk- arounds (as they've licensed anything that Disney hasn't nailed down and the park has too many different ones) - and they need better tweaking of their attraction designs (E.T. animatronics shouldn't look so poor).

But I am continually impressed that they seem to want to do more - and not less - like a certain Burbank rodent seems to enjoy more and more lately.

Universal is trying very hard. And their growing annual pass program, among other indicators, seems to show they are really building their audience. Isn't that great for visitors and customers like you and me?  :)


Special thanks this update go to a contributing photographer. I'd name the person, but you know how that goes...


Ok folks, see you at Disneyland AND Universal! Ain't nice to have more places to visit?

11/7/00 UPDATE: Admission prices go up yet again! / The lure of annual passes for DCA is just too much to resist - Employees not allowed though / The current list of FASTPASS openings / Mad Mouse loading feedback / Pooh news / An amazing photo from Knott's


Admission prices go up yet again!

...and they plan another increase when the new park opens. We knew they were coming, here's the scoop:

One-Day Passports are now $43 for ages 10+ and $33 for kids 3 - 9. Seniors are $41. Two and three day passports were not affected. (Rumor has it those go up in Jan. / Feb.) Accompanying Group and Cast Member- discounted one- day passport prices were also set.

The Southern California Annual Pass went up $10 to $89... the Senior So Cal AP is $85.  The Deluxe AP also went up $10 to $139 - same blockout days it appears.


The lure of annual passes for DCA is just too much to resist - getting closer to the entry gate - employees not allowed

The word is "somebody [apparently Pressler] is caving in" and there will likely be Annual Passports (APs) available for the new California Adventure park [DCA]. Plans being discussed now call for a DCA -only AP, a Disneyland -only AP, and some sort of Premium AP good for both parks.

Current APs would have the option of upgrading their current AP to the "premium" AP.

How that will work with blockout days and "levels" of pass, folks now have no idea, and frankly, as one cast member related, they "don't envy the person who has to come up with that stuff."

Personally I think they were looking long term, and realizing that they would need the steady business APs bring them in the off season to help meet the numbers at the new park

The Entrance construction walls in front of the new park are scheduled to be pushed back beyond the "C A L I F O R N I A" letters November 20th. To coincide with that date, Guest Relations will open the two Guest Information Booths at the newly-renamed "Main Entry Plaza" (it appears that "Esplanade" may have been too hard to pronounce or spell for some folks), as well as some form of a DCA Preview Center / Table / Booth to further hype the new park. By that time, ticketing options and park hours will have been announced, so the CMs will have more concrete info to spiel about to the Guests.

Before I forget, the word has been passed on to all the employees at Disney that there will be no employee passes allowed for the new park (silver passes, complimentary passes, etc.) for at least six months to a year. Hmmm, are they trying to keep morale up? ;)


Here's the current list of Disney's FASTPASS openings:

small world holiday is now open
small world holiday is now open - Fastpass for it arrives soon

"it's a small world" - 11/10
Star Tours - 11/10
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - 11/15
Haunted Mansion - 11/17
Pirates of the Caribbean - 11/21

They are as always of course, subject to getting pushed back.


Mad Mouse loading feedback

A few folks wrote me after a past update where I expressed my surprise about the new DCA Mad Mouse ride's lack of a moving walkway to assist riders who would be loading into moving cars.

The very kind Judi Lane was first to comment:

The loading situation for the mad mouse at DCA will be just fine! This is exactly what Hersheypark has done with their brand new Mack wild mouse, which is identical to the one at DCA.

It's a little difficult to imagine if you haven't seen this work, but when the cars reach the load / unload area, they slow down almost to the point of virtually not moving. The current riders first get out on the left side (opposite the loading area), then, once they're out, the next riders enter the car from the right.

As I stated previously, these cars are just barely creeping. I tend to be a klutz even when it comes to getting on and off escalators, and I had no trouble with getting in and out of the wild mouse car at Hersheypark. It's actually kind of fun, and definitely keeps the line moving.

And, as a precaution, for riders with accessibility issues (such as guests in wheelchairs), or for folks who feel they can't get in or out of the slow moving mouse, the ride operators repeatedly announce over the P.A. that they will stop the moving mouse upon request at the loading dock. I saw this in action, and the Hersheypark ride operators were gracious about the request.

This loading / unloading method did seem far more efficient than the traditional stop- and- start loading / unloading that Dorney Park is using with the identical Mack wild mouse ride. I was very impressed with the slow moving belt system Mack had used at the Hersheypark station to keep the cars moving slowly and smoothly.

Even if Disney wanted to put in the Haunted Mansion type of moving walkway, they wouldn't be able to, for lack of space. But, given the very slow speed the cars travel, it really isn't needed.

Wow Judi, thank you for that description. One of the nice things about helping to run MousePlanet is finding out what a terrific bunch of regular readers we have for the site.

Mad mouse cars at DCA
Mad mouse cars at DCA

Cris Cooper also wrote:

I just had to make a small comment on [the Mad Mouse comments].... You may recall on the former Journey into Imagination that there was no walkway for either boarding the cars or disembarking.... so I don't think that the absence of a moving platform automatically means that accidents will happen. However, the nature of the vehicles have to also be considered. I'd imagine that its much easier to board the Imagination vehicles with no moving platform than it would be to board one of the haunted mansion vehicles without a moving platform. I'm not sure how that would translate over to Mulholland Madness.

Just as a side note, I recently visited the Arrow Dynamics website and looked at a small picture of their mouse coaster. I think this design of mouse coaster would have been much more appropriate for DCA. The Arrow coaster uses large "tree-like" supports which make the design more aesthetically pleasing and less cluttered looking. Hop over to the Arrow Dynamic website and see what you think of their mouse compared to the Mack version.

Actually Cris, as fun as either coaster may be to ride while in the parking lot of the local WalMart, I still would have preferred a REAL Disney quality park built across from Disneyland as opposed to the carnival we are getting. Sigh.


Pooh news

Just a tidbit - we may be getting lucky here. Apparently they may go ahead and give us a slightly smaller version of the same Pooh ride the Tokyo Disneyland park got. [Here's a link to Jim Hill's past story here on MousePlanet about it.]

Since it would actually cost more money than the plans they had before, a lot of folks remain skeptical about it... but we'll see. They did fix the holiday fireworks show, and that wasn't cheap. The idea of Disneyland finally thinking of quality first would be a nice change from what has been the standard operating procedure the last five years.


An amazing photo from Knott's...

Perilous Plunge earns its name
Perilous Plunge earns its name

David Lane took this picture last Saturday at Knott's - after a Perilous Plunge boat apparently decided to try and go free or something... thankfully no one was in it at the time as it dropped on down and then off the track. The park had to truck in a crane after it happened to remove the unit during operating hours in front of all the visitors.

Um, I don't know about you, but I think I will stick to riding the Supreme Scream instead...  ;)


That should do it for this update - now I have to go and chase that rumor I am hearing about the Electrical Parade's return being canceled...

See you at Disneyland!


11/3/00 UPDATE: Parking structure headaches / California Adventure (DCA) update on preview tickets - problems continue, both at the park and hotel - Country Bears moving over? / Acres and acres of Disneyland / Carnation Gardens - former Casa Mex almost back / Prices up - portions reduced on food / Divas done by WDW / Disney Store problems mount


Disneyland Resort Parking structure headaches

What happens when you have Michael Eisner designing parking structures? You get problems it seems. And major ones at that.

First - rumor has it that the ramps you drive up to reach your parking level are needing to be better anchored to the structure, since they may be pulling away from the building. I'd wondered about this myself - especially since they had erected some rather huge scaffolding along the ramps and had workers on them.

A quick walk over to the area to look last Sunday night revealed the following work being done:

Bolting the ramps to the structure
The stairs you see on the left of the above shot lead up from level two to level three of the structure - the new metal brace is being bolted from a support column to the ramp on the right side of the shot. This is major work folks.

There was a rumor that the ramp had separated up to eight inches from the structure, but that was not apparent in my brief view of things. Either way, it inspires a LOT of confidence eh?

Meanwhile work continues on finally getting the awnings up over the escalators - as required by state code. (I guess busy execs like Eisner forget these trifling details.) "They are spending ten times as much to put them in now," one person mentioned to me "compared to what it would have cost to do them correctly in the first place."

If you find yourself in the rain and needing to get up a floor or two to get to your car - avoid using the elevators - major leaks from both the top, and the bottom (shown below)...

Stopgap measures to keep leaks from disabling the parking structure elevators

...disable the electronics. It's bad enough that after hanging signs all over the levels with characters on them, they don't follow through inside the elevators on the button panels - so you have to guess what level you are parked on. But the rain adds a whole new dimension to things - as it fouls up the controls, sending elevators to the wrong floors, and showing the wrong floor numbers on the display up on top of the doors.

"These are all mistakes and poor design that will cost the company for a long time to come, if not forever," the same person said. "...all because you had people involved who didn't really know what they were doing."


California Adventure (DCA) update on preview tickets - problems continue, both at the park and hotel - Country Bears moving over?

Mouse Tales' David Koenig sent along the following item:

Attendance for the January- to- early February preview parties at DCA is being capped at 30,000 per day (several thousand fewer than the park will accommodate following the official opening). So far, from what can be confirmed, the only day sold out is the first Annual Passholder day, Saturday February 3.

Tickets, though, are going fast for the Feb. 4 AP day, well ahead of all eight Disney Club / Magic Kingdom Club days Jan. 22 - Feb. 2 (due to less promotion to club members).

DCA also added an afternoon- to- evening party Jan. 15. The hours are shorter and the price steeper ($50 instead of $20), but all proceeds benefit the park's favorite charity, CHOC. A series of employee previews and a WDI private party will be held during the preceding week or so.

I've heard they will probably also add a few extra AP dates - because it seems that the number of APs has swelled (see below), and they are responding to this offer in droves.

MousePlanet Guest Columnist Mary Kraemer (who resides in the San Francisco area) also sent in a note about ticket buying for the advance dates:

After more than 15 minutes on hold, I got through last evening to the DCA ticket line (nice to be on hold that long on my dime...). The dates that worked out for our schedule (a three- day weekend for the kids) are the last weekend in January, so I got tickets for the 28th.

I asked the person on the phone how many tickets were being sold for each day. He was rather ambiguous about his answer and it was carefully worded.

He said that for MKC members, there would be 81,500 tickets for the 8 days; there would be comparable numbers of tickets available for those same 8 days for Disney alumni (but I'm not sure what that means... former CMs?). But that number was for the overall days, and he didn't say if there were limits on any given days, so it would make sense that some days will be potentially crowded and others not, but the overall number can still be achieved. Does that make sense?

What blew me away was that he said that there would be 30,000 tickets each day for the AP days. I asked why there were so many tickets for APs but not the other days, and he said that because there are more than 300,000 APs in the LA area, there was such high demand that it warranted so many.

Now, Al, I have a really hard time believing that there are more APs out there than people who presently hold MKC cards (many, like me, have them free from work).

Have you heard anything about this? It sounds like they want to pack APs in like sardines; or do they just think they can get away with that? Could you fathom 30K at DCA?

I don't know, Al. Vince and I looked at each other and said, "Well, we ought to go check it out. And if it sucks, we can just go over to Disneyland and have

Shaking my head and wondering exactly *why* I spent so long on hold,


You gotta remember Mary, APs (annual passholders) are Disneyland's bread and butter - and their most disdained customer. It's true to form that they are going to get treated the way they are. As far as 30k attending on one day - I can imagine the lines to see the bread baking and tortilla making will be rather long. We'll have to wear comfortable shoes to enjoy them. ;)

Now, for all you regular visitors, keep in mind that unless you stay at a Disney hotel, there will be NO park- hopping tickets available for the general public. You will need to buy a TWO day ticket - no ifs, ands or buts. Hotel visitors can only access both parks on the same day if they buy the premium priced length of stay media - ouch.

Meanwhile - if you have a reservation at the Grand Californian for the first two weeks of it's originally planned opening - you probably have already gotten a phone call asking you if you will bump your stay back two weeks. Seems they are running late on construction - and they will offer you free goodies (park tickets it seems) if you accept the rescheduling.

Also late may be some significant sections of the new park itself - as they are also running behind there. We'll lock down more of what may be delayed as soon as we can confirm things - if you have preview tickets it's safe to assume that you should not expect to see a fully operational park at that time.

About the only thing that will be on time - and is actually being pushed to open early [Paul Pressler IS in charge you know!] are the World of Disney and other Disney owned shops in the Downtown Disney mall. "You can actually see the man salivate," one wag told me about Pressler, "when he gets to talking about having the store open up early. He is shooting for before Thanksgiving." Once a mall rat, always a mall rat I guess...  ;)

A persistent DCA rumor is that the Country Bears will be moved from their home in Critter Country at Disneyland, across the esplanade, on over to either DCA's raft ride or Hollywood areas. The idea here of course is that since the movie based on this attraction has been green lighted - they will need a new home, since they were being moved out anyway to accommodate the upcoming bargain basement [NOT like Tokyo's] Pooh ride for Disneyland.

A final note about what seems to me to be a major miscalculation on the part of the park's management here: It seems that in order to get the ridership numbers up on the mad mouse attraction they have decided it must run continuously. In other words, no stopping of the vehicles for load and unloading.

Now in most types of these situations - like the Haunted Mansion for example - continually moving ride vehicles are usually boarded via moving walkways. This helps keep the rider in synch with the ride car, and allows them to get in and out of the vehicle smoothly.

Well, at the Mulholland Madness Mad Mouse they have decided that a moving platform is just too expensive. Riders will have to walk alongside the cars to board them.

After all the hoopla over the recent accidents - isn't asking people to board a moving attraction without a moving walkway sort of asking for trouble? No matter how slow it may move?

The ride time is already short on this ride - basically half your time on it is spent on the lift hill as it is - making for a lower quality experience. But to not even provide a moving platform? Sheesh.


Acres and acres of Disneyland...

A kind reader send the following, which I thought I would share with you in the update today:

Dear Al,

A recent reader question in your Ask Al! column inquired about the size of DCA. It had been a curiosity of mine as well, and since I was never able to find any reliable data on the internet, I finally had to do the area take-offs myself.

At the beginning of the Disneyland Resort construction, there were no real good promotional materials available from Disney.  The City of Anaheim produced a fold-out brochure touting the improvements in the Anaheim Resort area, and Disney did make these available in their old preview center trailer, out back in the TDA parking lot near Ball Rd. This folder included a small-scale site plan of the entire resort area.

I scanned the portion of the plan covering the Disneyland Resort area specifically, bounded by Ball Rd., Harbor Blvd., Katella Ave. and Walnut Street. I imported the scan into my CAD program, scaled it up to a workable scale (1" = 400') and started tracing areas. 

I was pleased to confirm that DCA seems to indeed cover about 55 acres, as promised by Disney, and that the Grand Californian Hotel acreage is in addition to that, and not a part of the DCA 55 acres. The current Timon parking lot (likely DCA expansion area) covers about 20 acres, not including vehicular access around its Eastern and Southern edges.

Downtown Disney covers about 17.5 acres in the plan that I scanned. This would include outdoor areas. The 300,000 square feet figure announced by Disney would only be retail and restaurant area inside the buildings.

It is important to keep in mind that the plan I worked off of is a preliminary version, and there are significant differences between it and what is now under construction. But I feel that the overall Master Planning as indicated on this plan is still what is being followed in the final version. Therefore, I think that the overall areas shown are reasonably reliable. Also, I made certain assumptions about the individual boundary placements, so the acreages shown will vary by a couple of acres when compared to the results arising from different interpretations. But this is probably the closest we can get to reality given no official information.

For fun, I did an area take-off of Disneyland, assuming a perimeter that encompassed the backsides of show buildings, but did not include perimeter backstage areas. This resulted in a figure of 90 acres. It is also interesting to note that the front faces of Sleeping Beauty Castle and Main St. Train Station are exactly 1000 feet apart from each other, which is almost the same exact distance from the Mark Twain dock building to the Observatron / Rocket Rods loading platform. Just another meaningless fun fact derived from staring at an accurate plan!

Attached is the graphic I produced. I have included a Disney copyright blurb. I leave it to your discretion as to whether or not you can post it on your website.

- Miguel Fernandez, Architect - relocation architect for Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn, L.A. Live Steamers complex, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Miguel, thank you for that! I too found it of major interest - as soon as I can get an OK from our legal folks for the art you provided, I will be sure to include it on the site for everyone to get a look at.


Carnation Gardens - former Casa Mex almost back

Wouldn't you know it, JUST as I had put up rehab photos - the Carnation Gardens area (off the hub, west of the Castle) was pulled from under wraps and opened up Wednesday night. Here's a shot of what it now looks like:

Carnation Gardens
Carnation Gardens

The crane you see in the shot is being used to detail the paint on the hub side of the newly remodeled restaurant - you will be able to walk through it to Frontierland area.

We saw a menu for the new place, in of all places a Disneyland Resort Job Fair being held at the hotel. As we have mentioned here before - it confirmed there will be three major types of foods offered within: A fresh-Mex grill, complete with salsa bar [think Baja Fresh at Marie Calendar pricing], a grill to order Hamburger area that also has onion rings piled on a stick as one of the offerings, and the newly relocated Big Thunder BBQ menu.

This new menu offering - along with the much faster scatter-serve system that both Plaza Inn and Redd Rockets now have should really make this a nice in park alternative. Let's see how it will do once all the new dining options open up just outside the gate at the mall.

By the way, while I was taking the above shots - I also ran into the park setting up the fireworks for the Cast Blast party out on Tom Sawyer Island. You can see below the rigging for it, the latticework was pulled up by the two Fantasmic light towers for the party that night.

Cast Blast fireworks being set up
Cast Blast fireworks being set up


Prices up - portions reduced on food

Before I forget - on a less fun note here - prices are up and portions are being reduced yet again at all the park eateries. Menu items for example that used to be 7.99 now are up to about 8.99 - most increases ranging from 70 to 90 cents. As the prices have gone up - the portions have gone down in size. A BBQ beef sandwich at Big Thunder for example is tiny, even compared to an Arby's dollar sandwich.

The worst value for your dollar at the park is the new Pot Roast plate [replacing the unpopular kettle plate] at Plaza Inn - for 12.99 you only get two small cuts of roast, and a meager portion of vegetables. Stick with the chicken - or do what we did one recent Sunday, walk across Harbor to Tony Roma's and pay a bit less for a whole lot more food.


Divas done by WDW

How worried were they about the recent Divas event? So worried they flew in the entire merchandising team from Orlando to handle it. They actually even wore their Walt Disney World name tags during the whole thing so they could be easily identified. Since these folks were from out of town - it was probably one of the reasons the event still was rather clunky in its execution. There were quite a few complaints about how it should have been run a bit smoother - thankfully they didn't repeat the Pirates problems.

"The park loves these things," said a source, "because they are gold mines. But they want to pack as many people in as they can, and they want the costs down." He continued: "They felt the Toad event was too expensive, even if people really did like it. So look for them to try and tweak the concept rather than just try to do it the way it should be done."

Too bad the profit margins demanded are so high that they just can't do these things properly.


Disney Store problems mount

Meanwhile, while the new park got built by mall folks, the Disney Stores continue to suffer from some major league gaffes as far as direction they should take.

Seems the big push now for the chain is apparel. To be expected of course since the grand Pooh-Bah lording over them is formerly from Nike. The bad thing is that apparel as a consumer segment in the current retail climate is just about the coldest trend and slowest area of growth they could laser focus in on. (Well, it could be that lawn gnomes as a retail category may be a wee bit slower.)

Does anyone remember what happened at Disneyland when they had a Gap executive in charge? She tried to fill the shops with what she knew about - clothing. She pretty much blew off all the Disneyland specific items since she did not know anything about resort souvenir buying. Sales plummeted of course, and it took the park almost five years to get back in park specific merchandise again.

Why does this sound like it is happening all over again with the stores?

Meanwhile the early numbers on consumer feedback about the new Disney store concept is starting to now filter back into Burbank. "Customers are less than overwhelmed." we heard back. "But everyone is hoping Christmas will ignite things."

Yep, just what America needs - 102 Dalmatians logo t-shirts and play suits to match those 101 Dalmatians logo t-shirts and play suits purchased a few years ago.


Ok, enough for now - more to come soon. See you at the park!

10/14/00 WEEKEND UPDATE: California Adventure tickets now on sale for Passholders and Disney Club - MKC members / More on the snow for Disneyland - new fireworks show going away? / Electrical parade schedule set? / More DCA problems... /The DCA theater show details should be made public next week / The Operating Hours for DCA now seem set / The casting drive (new employee recruitment) is not going too well


California Adventure tickets now on sale for Passholders and Disney Club - Magic Kingdom Club members

No we don't take weekends off around here...

The park quietly announced advance ticket sales for California Adventure Starting Jan. 22 [for Disney Club / MKC members] and Feb. 3 for passholders [Aren't passholders, according to Paul Presser, supposed to be Disneyland's most valued customers? Nice way to treat them eh?] Tickets are for all day - whatever the hours scheduled for the park are [usually 8 AM to Midnight.]

Here's the details, which we confirmed on the phone for you, for tickets you need to call (714) 520-5045 - between the hours of 5 PM to 9 PM, Monday thru Friday, on Saturday & Sundays you can call between 8 AM to 6 PM. Weird hours aren't they?

The tickets run $20 each [probably because so much won't be up and operating]

Disney Club - Magic Kingdom Club advance dates are: Jan. 22, 23, 25, 28, 29, 30, Feb 1 & 2 - you can buy up to eight tickets.

Annual Passholder advance dates are: Feb 3 & 4 - you can buy up to five tickets.

Official opening date for the park to the public is Feb 8.

I would suggest you call as soon as possible for the dates you want - quantities will most probably be very limited.


More on the snow for Disneyland - new fireworks show going away?

The snow effect for the new Christmas fireworks will be used in New Orleans Square in addition to Main Street. There will be no Tinker bell in the Christmas show, and that's both versions (the ball of light and the live one) of Tink that will not be used. Fireworks times during the week will be 7:15pm, with 9:15 shows on Friday and Saturday night or when the Park is open until midnight.

Currently, there is no plan to bring back the Believe fireworks show for weekend performances after the holidays. A unnamed fireworks show will return for nightly performances next June. (Yes, we may no longer show Believe after the holidays, more info when available on this.)


Electrical parade schedule set?

A twice nightly "Night Parade" is now scheduled to return to Disneyland on June 15th. The Parade of the Stars will become an afternoon parade running twice an afternoon next summer season. After Labor Day, the Night Parade is scheduled to run nightly on weekends, with Parade of the Stars running 7 days a week in the afternoons.


Now back to DCA breaking news...


More DCA problems...

Yes, the northern tower of the Jumpin' Jellyfish [chute tower] is crooked. It was placed in the ground improperly by the contractors and leans to one side a bit. It is visibly crooked from the Pacific Hotel, and very visible from ground level when you are standing nearby. It has been decided by both the contractor and WDI that it is safe to operate however. They just hope no one really notices it though on February 8th.

Sorry folks, that's a tower that I think I myself will avoid when I visit.


The DCA theater show details should be made public next week

The Hyperion Theater show has been named "Disney's Steps In Time". This will probably be in the employee newsletter, The Disneyland Line next week. I have no idea what the plotline is, but I assume a variety show of Disney thru the decades.


The Operating Hours for DCA now seem set

DCA will be open from 8 am to Midnight it's first three days of official operation, February 8th thru 10th. For February and March, it will be open from 9 am to 9 pm during the week, and will stay open until midnight on Saturdays.

After Spring Break and Easter Vacation in April, DCA will be open from 10 am until 8 pm during the week, with midnight closes on Saturdays thru May.

In June, July and August, DCA will be open from 8 am until 10 pm 7 days a week, including Saturdays. Midnight closes for DCA will end in April, after the initial rush dies down.

In September, 2001, DCA will return to 8 pm closes during the week, and will close at 10 pm on Saturdays. When DCA is open until 10 pm or later, there will be two performances of the "Eureka!" day parade in the afternoons.

Remember when we wrote about this? At this same time, Disneyland will begin closing at 6 pm during the week, but will still close at midnight on Saturdays all year. Disneyland will retain its usual extended midnight operation during Spring Break and Summer.

But weekdays during the off season, Disneyland will close at 6 pm. Hey, that new mall has to do its job, right?


The casting drive (new employee recruitment) is not going too well

There's now some strange committee that meets every Friday to "give support" for recruiting for the new park among the current employees.

Recently they held a Job Fair for High School Seniors in Orange County. They were hoping for 600 people to show up. 270 actually showed up, and they were only able to extend job offers to 93 of the applicants. Of those 93 job offers, only 26 of them were for the critical Onstage roles in Attractions and Merchandise. Most of the offers were for Backstage roles.

The majority of the applicants were nowhere close to meeting the Disney Look appearance guidelines, and some had English skills that prevented them from communicating effectively with the interviewer. Some needed help filling out the application and forms that were printed in English.

Regardless of English skills, most of the applicants were sloppily dressed and did not have engaging personalities or any sense of social grace. Many of the students were not involved in any type of extra-curricular activity at their school. One interviewer said "If I heard one more applicant say 'I like to just hang out' when I asked them what their interests and hobbies were, I was going to scream!"

It was the general consensus of the Disney Cast Members and recruiters at that
particular Job Fair that they had collected all of the High School Seniors in Orange County who haven't been able to get jobs elsewhere yet. One Cast Member helping at the event surveyed the lackluster applicants waiting for interviews and dubbed the Job Fair "The biggest Detention Hall I've ever seen." That wasn't really the demographic they were looking for.

The Resort needs 8,175 Cast Members by the middle of December, and the recruitment drive is having a hard time getting out of second gear.

If you'd like to read more about the problems Disneyland is having recuriting new employees for the resort expansion, visit David Koenig's Mouse Tales column here on MousePlanet.


That should do it for this weekend - see you at California Adventure? ;)

10/12/00 QUICK UPDATE: Rocket Rods: Prognosis Negative / Nightly holiday fireworks / DCA Ticketing & FastPass news / Disney Stores and ABC - why they make for higher prices and dirty parks / Disneyland Resort tidbits / Guides updated

Rocket Rods: Prognosis Negative

That's the latest word - a lot of folks at Imagineering do not expect them to return at this time. From an e-mail I got from someone who knows...

Rocket Rods seems to have been axed by Pressler. Whether it gets any sort of reprieve is still to be determined. The sign at the entrance may be like the one (Sorry, We’re Imagineering A New Attraction) that was on Carousel of Progress for eight years.

You should point out that any time that some item on one of your updates appears to not happen (closing of an attraction [Mark Twain, Columbia, etc.]) or be inaccurate, then it’s is probably because Team Disney Anaheim [TDA] changed their minds, NOT because you had incorrect information.

There have been only a FEW items that I know of where your information was faulty. Most of the time it has been very accurate. Being on the inside, it’s frustrating when people won’t believe accurate reporting just because, when the park quietly corrects their mistake, it makes it appear that you are wrong. Especially when it appears that the exposure on your site may have actually spurred the correction.

We'll see how this situation develops. Leaves it wide open for more than a few ideas doesn't it?


Nightly holiday fireworks

Reader Ronnie asked:

Al when is Disneyland starting the Christmas Believe show and the snowing on Main Street, U.S.A.? Cause all of this sounds rally cool.

Good news! The new Christmas fireworks show will be showing NIGHTLY seven days a week from November 3rd thru New Years Day. That's great for visitors this holiday season. [Fantasmic returns holidays, Fridays and Saturdays only at this time - starting Thanksgiving weekend]

The advance word is very very good on the new score and the new effects they will be using. Not to mention the new Main St. snow effect they are planning. As soon as we hear more, we'll fill you in.

By the way, the O. C. Weekly has just run a cover story on what it's like to be Disneyland's neighbor during fireworks season - it's an interesting read, but the question still remains, why move in next door if you know they are going to do this kind of thing? It's sort of like when people move in under the flight path to an airport - and then complain about the noise, isn't it?


DCA Ticketing & FastPass news

Looks like if you want to buy a park hopper ticket between the new California Adventure park and Disneyland you will only be able to do so if you are staying at one of the Disney hotels.

As one e-mailer said "I guess that addresses the limited capacity issues."

It's just about confirmed that Disney hotel visitors will also be able to pick up advance FastPasses for both parks - which is one of the reasons they are revamping many of the machines now. As a result as a regular visitor, expect even longer stand by lines, and shorter windows of availability for FastPass tickets once this goes into effect.


Disney Stores and ABC - why they make for higher prices and dirty parks

Someone was kind enough to tip me off on this (thank you!) - it seems one of the major reasons the parks [as well as other parts of the company] had to cut back the last couple of months was that they needed the three hundred million it provided to pour into the just announced Disney stores revamp.

Now it seems park executives are bracing themselves again over the bad news double whammy that ABC is delivering to Eisner right now. There's already a 30% drop in viewership for the Millionaire quiz show [most likely due to overexposure], and the dot com ad frenzy the network benefited from the last few years is not coming back.

So sadly it seems that the one cash cow - the parks and resorts - may have to pony up even more savings / higher profits to make up for that.

I wonder what's next? Admission price increases? Annual passes are rumored to be going up November first. What else is left to do - they already just have one sweeper working Main St. on busy days as it is...  ;)

Meanwhile I can share this e-mail with you about how budgeting works [as far as restoring it] at the parks:

Just because they are now in the new fiscal year, doesn’t mean that the capital budgets will be released. Last year’s wasn’t released until April. The budget is one of those items that can be manipulated to satisfy current needs (like increasing earnings reports).

Disneyland is still under pressure to help keep those earnings numbers up. They may shift some things around, but overall, if the money doesn’t come in through the front door, they’ll squeeze it from the park itself.


Disneyland and Resort tidbits

- Looks like keyboard jockeys Rod Miller & Alan Thompson [from Coke Corner] will be moving their four hand piano act to Carnation Gardens once it reopens. The park is delighted with their paring, and the crowds they keep pulling in. The move will allow for some more showmanship for the duo and a better presentation hopefully.

- Resort Transportation is working on getting six omnibuses (like the one on Main St) for transportation over Disney- owned roads between the hotels,
Downtown Disney, the parks, and the structure.

- The originally planned move of the pet kennel on the first floor of the new parking structure has been scrapped in favor of remodeling the old one at the main entrance. The area where Guest Services is / was will be remodeled into a full service center including AP processing, stroller and wheelchair rental for Downtown Disney.

- They're working on a park-hopper plan for strollers and wheelchairs, so if you rent one at one park you don't have to turn it in before going to the other park or the mall.

- Concerning the Herb Ryman exhibit at the Gallery; The whole purpose for it (pushed by Marty Sklar) is to promote the Ryman Foundation and scholarship program. The exhibit will be used as a backdrop for upcoming fundraisers.


Guides updated

Both the Disneyland Information Guide and the California Adventure Guide have been extensively updated over the last few days. Along with Kevin Yee's updating of the Disneyland Restaurant Resource, plus Brian Bennett's major overhaul of the site's Walt Disney World materials, [along with the recent additions of the Universal Studios and Legoland guides] this should make MousePlanet your most up to date, and informative resource for your theme park needs.

A special thanks to all the MousePlaneteers who have worked so hard on this for the readers!


See you at the park!

10/4/00 Update: Police report on accident detailed in O. C. Register / Rocket Rods rumors - shop maneuvering / Disneyland Hotel remodel - Paradise Pier Hotel rumor / Budgets being restored / DVD info - Annual Passholder new restrictions / Diva event gossip / Monorail Toy / Herb Ryman exhibit in Disney Gallery / Why Disney took the initiative on movie ratings


Police report on accident detailed in O. C. Register 

The Orange County Register has a very detailed story today on the Roger Rabbit ride accident with information from the just released police accident report. There is also a second shorter article with quotes from the child's father. There are more details offered here that help fill in what happened.


Rocket Rods rumors - shop maneuvering 

Sign at Rocket Rods entrance
Sign at Rocket Rods entrance

The park has taken the unusual step of declaring a date that the Rods will return this coming Spring - so we'll have to see if the fixes they are planning can be actually put into effect and made to work.

The vehicles are supposed to be going back to Imagineering in Glendale - where the chassis will be reworked. The neon strips you saw on only two of the cars are now supposed to added to all of them, and the areas throughout the ride, that were not themed before will be now. We keep hearing they may install a shoot 'em up concept - like the Buzz Lightyear ride has in Walt Disney World.

Of course none of the fixes would increase the limited capacity this attraction suffers from.

Where does that leave the pitches they made for this area in the past? [Little Mermaid or Buzz Lightyear for the CircleVision building and the self- propelled coaster for the track?] It depends on how this attempt at a "patch" job works. I get the impression a lot of folks at the company would like to see this attraction go away - the costs are amazing. There are a very few souls in management who want to keep it - who feel they would look bad if it did fail.

Let's hope egos don't get in the way of giving us something of quality.

Meanwhile Merchandising is furious that the ride is down - as traffic is dead in the exit area shop - forcing them to close it early every day now. They got so angry they also started demanding the NASA Space exhibit area back for a shop - which is all still in the air right now. You'd think they'd be happy with the new Autopia exit shop they got.


Disneyland Hotel remodel - Paradise Pier Hotel rumor 

The Disneyland Hotel has started an extensive and long overdue remodeling - which will inconvenience some visitors as it continues for the next few months. The Disneyland Line [an employee newsletter] detailed most of what was happening:

There will be a total rehab of the rooms in all three towers. All 990 rooms in the Marina, Sierra, and Bonita Towers will get redone. The idea is to theme it to Disneyland itself. Details include the armoire to be stained with a rendering of the original 1955 map of Disneyland by artist Herb Ryman. Standard beds will be replaced with modified four- posters that have a rendering of Sleeping Beauty's Castle on the headboard. Detailing will include a glow in the dark wall border of Tinkerbell and her pixie Dust. The glow dims away after 10 - 15 minutes.

Some rooms will have a mirror from Snow White. Floor and desk lamps will have a Mickey icon and the lampshade will be covered in stars and moon as a tribute to Fantasia. Mickey's hand will be holding wall sconces and the tissue dispensers in the bathrooms will have a picture of Sneezy. The bedspread will feature scenes from twelve Disneyland locations - Haunted Mansion, Matterhorn bobsleds, Jungle Cruise, Horse- drawn Streetcars, Mad Tea Party, the Mark Twain, Casey Jr. Circus Train, AstroOrbitor, Dumbo, Pirates, the Carrousel, and the Main Street Train station.

Rehab began on Sept 24th on the Marina Tower. Sierra will follow on October 6. Bonita is scheduled for January 2002. All work in the First two towers is expected to be completed by the end of January 2001.

Meanwhile they keep pushing the idea of having a separate entrance to the Paradise Pier area of the new California Adventure park from the former Pacific, now Paradise Pier hotel.

Why are they looking at this? Well if you said, "convenience" - well, that would only be a small part of it. The real reason for the gate is that it will allow the hotel to charge higher room rates - since they can now sell it as having direct access to the new park. Expect the Pacific to match or slightly exceed the room rates at the Disneyland Hotel - and come in just a notch or two below the new Grand Californian Hotel.


Budgets being restored

You can see throughout the park that the budgets are now being restored, now that the fiscal year has changed over. Most visible for foods is the return of lunch at Big Thunder BBQ - and you now see some staffing increases for the attractions.


DVD info - Annual Passholder new restrictions 

On one hand Eisner giveth - on the other he takes away...

Good: For all you Disney DVD customers, looks like good news. The word is that Disney has finally responded to all those customer complaints about the forced previews on the discs. Sci-Fi-Fann, a kind reader, sent me the following link to DVD Shrine where the site's webmaster had a great talk about this issue with the folks at Home Video. In a nutshell it looks like the forced previews will be phased out over the next few months - with some kind of skip option offered on most releases. Finally!

Bad: Sadly it seems now that Disneyland accountanteers have decided to make life even MORE difficult for Annual Passholders who have parking options added, or included with their passes.

They snuck in a new requirement on all new passes being issued that the parking option is ONLY good for the new parking structure - and nowhere else in the resort. As of this month, if you want to park in either the Timon or Simba lots - you will have to pay the full fee.

I can fully understand they do not want you parking in either of the hotel lots, or in the new Downtown Disney area - that's a reasonable request. But to needlessly complicate things by demanding you only park in the new structure is just dumb. It complicates an already difficult entry to the park - and if you don't happen to enter the resort by driving South down the 5 - it triples your entry time. 

Why? Because the new parking structure is ONLY set up to accept traffic heading South on West St. / Disneyland Drive - there is no entry the other direction. I guess when you have CEOs designing parking structures - you forget little things like that. ;)

Speaking of the parking structure - they are finally going to try and open up a few more levels - as they have built a few more new temporary awnings over the escalators that still require permanent ones.

Oh, and make sure they hand you your glossy eight page ABC viewing guide booklet on your way in - funny, they even include a cut- out schedule to tape up near your TV set so you don't miss any shows. Hmmm... isn't ABC the one network that ruthlessly moves shows around so much you can't find them?  ;)


Diva event gossip 

The Diva event was an instant sell-out - and most of you who got tickets wrote me concerned that they may go ahead and try to expand the attendance on this one by selling more of them.

Last thing I heard was that they would not at this time - so the event should be able to be handled properly. Rumor has it that Walt Disney World merchandising personnel has been involved with and are working on the event - and the mandate for it is to "make sure this makes up for the Pirates fiasco."

If they are serious, it should be terrific. Let's keep our fingers crossed they can pull it off as planned. I know the customers would be delighted.


Monorail Toy 

The recent series of die- cast attraction toys continues with a new Monorail set:

Monorail die-cast toy
Monorail die-cast toy - click above to purchase at MouseShoppe

Although this is clearly packaged for Walt Disney World - the fact they are now making toys of park attractions is a good thing. The cost is reasonable too - check it out at MouseShoppe.


Herb Ryman exhibit in Disney Gallery 

They opened a Herb Ryman memorial exhibit in the Disney Gallery above Pirates - replacing the Tomorrowland / Autopia display they had before. I have to admit I'm not the biggest fan of his work - but for those who are, they have done a terrific job of assembling a lot of interesting materials here.

Sketchbook exhibit
Sketchbook exhibit

As you can see above, one of the unique displays they have is of his sketchbooks - it's rare you can see an artist's work in this manner.

Sam McKim's portrait of Herb
Sam McKim's portrait of Ryman

The only really weak part of the exhibit is the room dedicated to other artists - some who painted a tribute to Herb, others that are students. The tributes are nice, you can see the Sam McKim portrait above [McKim drew the Disneyland wall map among many other things] but the students work is sub par.

There is also some new merchandise [of course!] to tie in with the exhibit - making the whole thing well worth a visit just to see what's new if nothing else.


Why Disney took the initiative on movie ratings [a terrific site with all sorts of neat information if you get a chance to visit it] gave a little insight on September 27th as to why Disney as a company has taken the lead in the current Washington hearings on movie ratings / violence:

According to a senate source, the backup materials to the FTC report showed that Disney, far and away, had been doing the most advertising of R-rated movies in the so-called family hour -- 8 to 9 p.m. Senators privately showed Disney president Robert Iger the statistics. New corporate policy wasn't far behind.

Let's just be glad they are heading in the right direction. 

By the way, Iger's idea of having one uniform rating system for all sorts of entertainment media [movies / games / online content] is a very good one. Parents would be much less confused. Let's hope that the film industry itself [who is resisting this] understands how it would be good to do.

Before I forget - Disneyland parking structure designer / CEO Eisner did a video interview for CNBC / MSNBC / Wall Street Journal where he discusses the ABC "Millionaire" show among other things. No mention is made of the parks, but it's interesting to hear him gab on about stuff.

Compare the picture he paints in the interview with the overhaul planned for the consumer products unit as noted in Excite News (in a very detailed excerpt from the Wall Street Journal story) - sounds to me like the company is still overhauling things, in particular with the Disney Stores. [$300 million is to be spent, including changing the look of over six hundred stores worldwide and closing the remaining hundred and forty stores as their leases expire.] Why they want to get away from the core Disney merchandise product is a mystery to me.

Bet those store sale rumors heat up again...


Congrats to two happy couples

For everyone that e-mailed and asked...

 Saturday's couple - Roger and Michele
Saturday's couple - Roger and Michele

Sunday's couple - Ilene and Jeff
Sunday's couple - Ilene and Jeff

Aren't they radiant? 

Told you I had a few weddings to attend weekend before last...

Both ceremonies and receptions were held at the Pacific [soon to be Paradise Pier] Hotel, and both went off terrifically well. The Disney weddings folks handled everything properly and promptly.


Well that about does it... althought I'm sure I forgot something! See you at the park!

10/2/00 Update: Another Times article runs today on the accident / Candlelight Procession dates now set - Snow on Main Street for the holidays / Haunted Mansion - Nightmare Before Christmas... DCA & Hyperion shows / New names for things... / Can Disney PR use an overhaul?


Another Times article runs today on the accident

Here's a direct link to it (it opens in a new window for you). Basically they sent a reporter down to an Amusement Park industry meet in San Diego and got some interesting comments. Also, just in case you've missed any of the Times articles, take a look at the end of this update for a recent listing.

One quick note here about what happened -

Many of you are writing me concerned [after reading the newspaper reports] that the cast members / employees [CMs for short] were not at the accident scene when help arrived, and apparently made no attempt to dislodge the child from under the car.

I think most people know that Disneyland has a policy in effect that if someone is injured, the Cast Members are instructed not to move the victim. The reasoning behind this is that if the injured suffers any additional harm from the action, it leaves the park wide open for lawsuits. 

As you can imagine, this can be a tough policy to follow when the type of accident happens as it just did with the Roger Rabbit ride - where someone would need to be dislodged from underneath the vehicle.

Keep in mind with 20 / 20 hindsight, as Bob Gurr mentioned in his note below, there are always things than can be done better. In this case I really feel for the folks involved as they had some tough moments there. No one should be judged harshly based on an extreme situation as this.

We'll keep you informed as we continue to hear things. In the meantime the park continues with other projects...


Candlelight Procession dates now set - Snow on Main Street for the holidays 

What may be the final Candlelight Procession for Disneyland is now scheduled for Saturday / Sunday, December 9th / 10th. Word is that it will move into the Hyperion Theater at California Adventure for the years following that. Sigh, anyone still miss seeing it on Main St. like I do?

Speaking of the holidays, besides the new holiday version of the fireworks - now named Believe... A Holiday to Remember (I hear the music is very nice too) - it seems they wanted to add just a little extra holiday touch, and they came up with something rather special.

Each night, just as the Fireworks [or parade ends] on Main Street, Disneyland will make it snow.

There is a new technology they are debuting this year that allows for a realistic snow effect - it floats on down to the street and then vanishes without any residue or dampness on the ground. It won't stain clothing or harm you if you should try and catch a snowflake on your tongue either.

As I understood it, park president Cynthia Harris pushed for this to be a nightly event - as it was originally only scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights right after the fireworks show. It's a nice touch to say the least, and it should be lots of fun, can't wait to see it.


Haunted Mansion - Nightmare Before Christmas... DCA & Hyperion shows

Someone was kind enough to fill me on on what has been happening with this - and why it will be delayed until next year [if things go as planned]:

[It] was actually not really ever a "done" item. It came out of the Entertainment Division (the same folks that brought you "It's a Small World Christmas"). 

It was "accidentally shown" i.e., the "personal" storyboards were "out" and being "worked on" just before a pitch for another show and the honchos said "gee what is that?", they loved it. There was a brief moment where they loved it so much, (the concept is VERY good) they asked if it could be done this year. Entertainment's answer was "we don't have time to do it properly, and with the opening of DCA we don't have the staff to develop the project." 

It somewhat does come down to money, entertainment can do anything with enough of it. If it would have been done this year, it would have been rushed and done cheaply. It now looks (second hand information here) that the Mansion project is now funded for next season, probably in time for Halloween (it would really theme in for both holidays). There are some Tim Burton hurdles to clear before it is a green light, barring any unforeseen problems it may be an official "go" for 2001.

Sounds great no? Plus remember the lovely Fab found out from Cynthia Harriss that we will finally get a Halloween celebration back next year too.

Another soul filled me in on the area entertainment for Downtown Disney, plus the show that is planned for the new Hyperion Theater in California Adventure:

There is a consultant group that does high concept "circus like" performance art that is developing an atmosphere show for the outdoor stage in the Hollywood backlot area. The rest of the program for DCA is still a work in progress. 

As far as the Hyperion Theatre presentation, expect it to be a really good show. The theatre will be a GREAT space to see and do a show. It's a wonderful facility, the first "real theatre" in an amusement park. (think Ahmanson Theater in LA) 2000 seats (fairly intimate) really state of the art audio system, a good lighting set up and a huge stage. 

It will be VERY different from anything else people have seen at any of the Theme Parks. There will be no "live" characters, but it should make die hard fans happy and folks that are less rabid about "Disney shows" excited too. If you know anyone who saw the Disney's TIA POW WOW show in Dallas, that would at least put you down the right path stylistically. 

Interesting no?


New names for things...

The former Casa Mexicana now finally has a new name set for it: Rancho Del Zocalo [Ranch of the square].

Speaking of new names, after New Years, when the holiday parade is over, "Disneyland's 45 Years of Magic... Parade of the Stars" will be renamed, "Disneyland Parade of the Stars"... um wow. It looks like it will run daily until the Electrical Parade takes over for the summer. (There's still no word on a start date yet for the Electrical Parade, or if they may pull the Christmas stunt yet with it as mentioned here before).


Can Disney PR use an overhaul?

Reader "H" sent me the following note quoted below, and I wanted to share it with you today. Although I don't have an answer for his specific question [getting Eisner's e-mail address] the concerns here are solid ones in light of all the press the park has been getting since the accident:

Al... First a simple question and then a more detailed comment. 

Is there any way to actually contact Michael Eisner by e-mail, and - if there is - do you suppose he actually reads any of his e-mail? (Maybe that question isn't so simple after all.)

Now, the comment. The reason I wanted to contact him is to see if he has any concern on how Disney public information handled the media after the terrible accident with the little boy on Roger Rabbit.

I have been a public information practitioner for nearly 30 years, in both the public and private sector, and have had to handle some very difficult situations - tragic accidents involving deaths. In reading the quotes from the Disney spokesman, Mr. Gomez, that you had posted [see links below], I found his comments to be callous, harsh and seemingly uncaring. I couldn't believe they were coming from a supposedly high- ranking PIO, much less one working for Disney.

He really sounded like a rookie and I believe most people reading the articles would come away with the feeling that Disney cared little for the victim or his family. I would like to think that's not the case, but certainly it's the impression he left. 

Also, another big PR mistake... the president of Disneyland speaking only through a "prepared statement." Classic PR rules say that in a crisis situation the top people are available - on the scene - answering questions. It demonstrates a caring for not only the victims but for all their other guests as well. Speaking only through a prepared statement leaves the impression that the CEO is "too busy" to bother with personally overseeing the investigation or making sure people are taken care of.

It appears to me that - based on the way Disney PR handled this accident - that all involved need to go back to school and learn some very basic lessons.

Certainly, I'm not saying that public relations should be used as a way to gloss over such a tragedy... but good PR can help everyone - including the victims - get through very difficult situations. It seems the way Disney PR handled this only made matters much, much worse. 

Do you think Eisner would care about those comments?

As I understand it, Eisner despises the press - and has to be cajoled and pushed into any dealings with it. [I've heard this first hand too.] Unfortunately he's the boss, and because of that is immune to advice about it or in changing his ways. As many people who know him tell me - he's reached a point in his career and life where he no longer feels he needs to go through these kinds of motions - no matter how much it may benefit the company to do so. Add to that his micro- managing issues, and well the story gets kind of old here to retell it all again.

Ray Gomez, as I understand it, try as he might, is considerably hobbled by the way PR is handled in most companies now, and at Disney in particular - with legal "advising" what the statements should be, due to liability concerns, and management wanting their own version out. Add to that the attempts at "spin" [Light Magic anyone?] and a hostile attitude towards any kind of news that the park doesn't approve of and yes, he comes across as a problem as you so clearly note.

I know the park management is constantly feeling they are being put under the gun by the press. But 90% of the problem, in my opinion, is due to some very poor decision making on their part, along with some blatant deception, to which can be added their inability to professionally manage it - as you so acutely observed. Maybe what it really comes down to is that quality PR folks cost money, and that's something always in short supply [according to accountaneering] at Disneyland. 


Ok, enough for today. I'll see you all at the park. By the way, keep an eye out all this week here at MousePlanet - lots of wonderful new things are starting to come out of the gate and should be available soon. :)


DISNEYLAND RIDE ACCIDENT NEWS: 9/30 - The L.A. Times has a piece on what the paramedics went through | 9/29 - Another L.A. Times article is up describing more of what happened after the accident | 9/28 - The L.A. Times has two stories, the first on how passengers were loaded into the vehicle, the second describes bluntly the events after the accident took place


11/29/00 UPDATE: New Annual Passports debut this week / Believe Fireworks to go year round / Photo Updates: New Frontierland Restaurant & California Adventure / 102 Dalmatians scuttlebutt - Monsters Inc. sneak preview / Fastpass progress & upcoming Pirates rehab / Hotel trams back to their old stops / Disneyland website additional info / Eisner still worried about e-mail / Splash Mountain collector's item

11/21/00 UPDATE: Calling 911 / Return of the Electrical Parade canceled - thank DCA / Fantasmic's farewell season / Hotel sign removed / Creepy heads / FastPass delays / New smoking areas / Annual Passholder processing center to be moved / New Disneyland web site / A note about Universal's efforts

11/7/00 UPDATE: Admission prices go up yet again! / The lure of annual passes for DCA is just too much to resist - Employees not allowed though / The current list of FASTPASS openings / Mad Mouse loading feedback / Pooh news / An amazing photo from Knott's

11/3/00 UPDATE:  Parking structure headaches / California Adventure (DCA) update on preview tickets - problems continue, both at the park and hotel - Country Bears moving over? / Acres and acres of Disneyland / Carnation Gardens - former Casa Mex almost back / Prices up - portions reduced on food / Divas done by WDW / Disney Store problems mount

10/12/00 QUICK UPDATE: Rocket Rods: Prognosis Negative / Nightly holiday fireworks / DCA Ticketing & FastPass news / Disney Stores and ABC - why they make for higher prices and dirty parks / Disneyland Resort tidbits / Guides updated

10/4/00 Update: Police report on accident detailed in O. C. Register / Rocket Rods rumors - shop maneuvering / Disneyland Hotel remodel - Paradise Pier Hotel rumor / Budgets being restored / DVD info - Annual Passholder new restrictions / Diva event gossip / Monorail Toy / Herb Ryman exhibit in Disney Gallery / Why Disney took the initiative on movie ratings

10/2/00 Update: Another Times article runs today on the accident / Candlelight Procession dates now set - Snow on Main Street for the holidays / Haunted Mansion - Nightmare Before Christmas... DCA & Hyperion shows / New names for things... / Can Disney PR use an overhaul?

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