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UPDATE: California Adventure's first overhaul /
DCA Preview problems continue / Cast
Members DCA feedback / Why
Paul Pressler should NOT be in charge of the parks /
Getting back to price increases /
They should have learned from the Barbie fiasco / Something they
got right - Something they got wrong / New Moments with Mr. Lincoln
- Part II
California Adventure's first overhaul
We got wind of this during the weekend, here's the scoop on it from a kind soul:
Mind you folks, this was after purposely padding the show with extra dancers and premium priced talent to make a great initial impression for the park opening and press festivities - after the Easter weekend they were most likely going to scale back the show anyway.
This is only the first of many problems they are facing at the new park, many of which were foreseen here, and some (like the above) not. We'll be continuing the theme here in a moment... but first here's another review of the "Steps in Time" show which helps illuminate some of the problems with it:
Looks like it won't even make it until the end of the week it looks like...
This final note about the show came in just under the wire for today's update...
DCA Preview problems continue
As you may know, the preview parties this past week have been hampered by the recent rains. Several nights had the scheduled performance of the Eureka parade cancelled due to weather - not to mention here again that the park is not really designed at all (in particular the Paradise Pier carnival area) for rainy weather - so many rides go down due to that. There have also been some high profile other downtimes on the three big E Tickets.
On Monday the 8th, a train "valleyed" (got stuck in a dip,
where it wasn't supposed to stop) on California Screamin' just as the Park
was opening. The attraction was closed for the entire party, and they had
to winch the train along the track after back to the station after the
Park closed that night.
Add to this the limited capacity of the ride anyway - and oh, factor in
an Italian and Japanese non- English speaking tour group or two - and you
will understand quickly just how few people (maybe only up to one fourth
of the total attendance on any day) may actually get to ride this highly
hyped premier attraction.
And before I forget, the portion of the Golden Dreams movie (hosted by Whoopie Goldberg) that had an image of a naked Chumash Indian woman with breast and nipple showing slightly underneath her long hair has been edited out. That scene is now cropped closer, and the Indian woman is shown from the cleavage up, without her breast or nipple showing.
It's very important to note here that attendance at the first few Cast Member Preview Parties has ranged from 4,500 to 9,200. (We should also keep in mind the park is in previews specifically to address these kinds of problems only a normal operating cycle will bring on.) Because of the continuous attraction downtimes though, waits of up to 25 and 30 minutes (WITH these lower crowds) have already quickly developed at the low capacity attractions at Paradise Pier. Let's not even begin to factor the mess FastPass gets into when a ride goes down either... (Hey, the carnival rides were cheap to put in, remember?)
The Annual Passholder Preview Parties have estimated attendance levels around 30,000. If you are planning a visit soon or right after opening, you should expect long waits at the low capacity carnival rides at Paradise Pier during the Annual Passholder Preview Parties, and then expect even longer waits at everything until Labor Day, 2001.
With all the feedback everyone's been hearing about the new park lately - two things should be kept in mind - all previews up until today (Monday the 15th) have been attended by people for the most part beholden to the mouse (mostly Cast Members or other Disney employees). And in only a few cases have the attendance numbers reached anywhere near 10,000 - one third of what they plan to fill DCA with.
You know, it's a fact that Disneyland is a heck of a lot nicer place to visit on an off season weekday than during the week between Christmas and New Year's. It also has the advantage for (the most part) of getting most of the problems and capacity issues worked out (unless Pressler is cutting budgets again). It now seems a given that DCA will not have any of those benefits this first year of operation.
So to draw conclusions now about how "successful" this new park is - or how well it is designed for the public is much too premature at this point. (And frankly no one commenting so far is thinking beyond to what the public will experience since they have had the benefit of an un-crowded advance preview.)
The true test comes starting Feb. 8th when the general public gets in through those gates. Readers can rest assured that MousePlanet will base its advisories, guides and visitor advice here on the site on those more realistic visiting conditions.
Cast Members DCA feedback...
One thing the CM's were commenting on the high price for meals and food at DCA. The Preview Parties had food at 50% off, but the regular prices were posted too. A Big Mac combo meal of sandwich and fries, once the drink is included, is priced at over 7 dollars. And that is not super-sized either folks. Spendy compared to the McDonalds across the street on Harbor Boulevard. Advance word is to expect yet ANOTHER price hike on food in the park early summer. (I just knew the $8 Big Mac meal was going to happen.)
Continuing one here, the Backstage buzz amongst the Cast Members who have been to the preview parties is that Superstar Limo is a "must see", simply because it is so laughably bad. The ride is very disjointed in its storytelling, and the effects are either so bizarre, meaningless, or cheaply done that there is no alternative but to laugh at the thing once you exit. There is a point during the ride where your picture is taken to be shown to you at the end of the attraction, and almost without fail everyone seated in the limo vehicle has a look of absolute confusion and / or boredom on their faces.
The scene where you are shown your picture provides the first comic relief in the Show, because towards the end of the attraction riders can finally realize that this new DCA attraction isn't simply weird, it's just bad. After you see yourself sitting in your limousine looking bewildered and confused, laughter always breaks out and Superstar Limo riders exit excitedly talking about how stupid and bizarre the attraction was. Many Cast Members are riding the attraction repeatedly to see if they can "get it". It doesn't seem to help though. Superstar Limo simply defies understanding or explanation.
Now that the show bit the farm, and the farm may bite the farm (according to the feedback Jim Hill got this past week) anyone want to place bets on this one lasting any amount of time?
Other Disneyland Resort operational problems...
Besides the operational problems detailed above, another funny thing has happened at DCA. Now that the Park is in soft openings 6 days a week, there are lots of Attractions CM's transferring back to Disneyland. Most of them took off their hard hats, put on their new costumes, and finally realized they were working on a Ferris wheel or a swing ride at a carnival, or standing next to a tractor exhibit in a fake farm.
Last Saturday, 14 Attractions CM's from the Westside had their last day
at Disneyland. They spent two days training on their new DCA attractions,
then another day or two working at the Preview Parties this past week.
This weekend, 12 of those 14 CM's marched back into the Attractions
Scheduling office and declared that they made a mistake in transferring to
DCA and they want to transfer back to Disneyland and back to the Haunted
Mansion, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.
Meanwhile, costuming delays have become frequent again. Delays of 20 to
40 minutes have been called over the Park radios the past two weekends.
Several attractions at a time are being called "reduced
capacity" for periods of time in the afternoon because evening shift
CM's are stuck in 30 minute lines at Costuming. On weekend mornings,
several attractions are unable to open at their scheduled time because the
bare minimum number of CM's required to operate the attraction are waiting
The rest of Disneyland and DCA costumes are distributed from the
central Costuming building, that was highly touted as the answer to both
Park's needs when it was opened with much fanfare last year. Even with the
two satellite locations, long lines develop quickly in the mornings and
afternoons. Old CM's are infuriated with the long lines and delays, and
new CM's are bewildered and disenchanted with their new workplace
conditions. It's an awful situation that has a dramatically negative
impact on CM morale.
Why Paul Pressler should NOT be in charge of the parks...
One of the problems with an executive like Paul Pressler is how utterly disconnected he is with the day to day operational situations and problems a Disney park can have. He sits up in his office, slashing budgets again and again to please Eisner, and meanwhile the customers have a harder and harder time during their visits, and even in doing something that Disney really wants them to do, which is to spend their money.
First example? They have decided to put a guard at the Grand Californian gate from Downtown Disney. After about 5 or 6 PM, only registered guests can enter the hotel, unless you already have reservations at one of the restaurants. Granted, they don't want kids on date night at the adjacent AMC 12 screen wandering around the new hotel, but still, it's really a problem someone needs to address.
Why? Because when you FINALLY talk your way into the hotel (or make a reservation from City Hall or the Info booth at the hub or in the esplanade between the two parks), you'll find the new Storyteller's Cafe is EMPTY. DEAD. A GHOST TOWN.
The folks there were asked why, if they were so EMPTY, the guards were not letting people in who wanted to eat there, and they said it was a huge problem they'd been having. They said their managers are trying to work with the security people to figure out what to do. Maybe set a reservation desk at that gate.
It seems like they're really hurting their restaurants... and Michael's bottom line, at least right now while the hotel isn't booked solid, and probably even later, when people may want a dining alternative to what else is offered at the parks or mall.
The other visitor hostile thing they are doing involves the cancellation of tram service from the outlying newly shrunk down Simba parking lot - as they are both trying to save money and get folks to walk through the new mall.
Here's the gist of an Instant Message that was shared with me:
You know maybe the real problem is the big execs like Pressler and Eisner are too busy doing the big things - like slashing budgets and designing parking structures (and collecting those multi-million dollar bonuses) to manage the ones below them that keep the customers happy or properly monitor and watch over the more mundane things like, oh say, actually making money for their company.
Do you get the feeling sometimes when it comes to stuff like this if Disney were a person, and the customers (and stockholders for that matter) were dogs, you could cite them for some kind of abuse?
WHOOP that pooch! ;)
Getting back to price increases...
Speaking of how they treat the customers... they have been really jacking up prices at Disneyland left and right the last few weeks - in particular this time around with merchandise. My jaw is agape.
The first wind I got of this was a price increase in the Candy Store - candy bars went up from 75 cents to a $1 - for a regular sized one mind you. This seemed to happen at the same time they decided to start charging list price for DVDs, instead of the more competitive Disney Store pricing levels (i.e. instead of $19.98, now you pay full list of $24.98). Looks like someone from Orlando, who's now running the shops, forgot that we have a huge amount of repeat annual passholder visitors I guess, who may just go to their local stores on these items instead. (Apparently sales have plummeted too on them.)
The new DCA ride toys, which are proving to be a big hit even before the park opens (remember when people were screaming themselves blue at former merchandise maven Ann Dale to get more of this kind of attraction specific stuff in?) had huge price increases, also.
The capper was looking at the Disneyland web site this weekend (to re-confirm the jaw gaping 50% hike in the multi-day flex passes) and discovering they added Disney Club pricing - in which the "discount" prices shown are the EXACT same prices as the regular ones now in effect.
Which of course means they probably listed this early by mistake, and they will follow through on the increase to $45 (from $43) in single adult tickets. This would be the THIRD increase in less than a year. Gotta yank that $11 million in bonus money for Eisner from somewhere, right?
They should have learned from the Barbie fiasco...
...you remember that one don't you? Where a talking Barbie once said "Math is hard!" Mattel fixed that one in a hurry once lawyer activist Gloria Allread got involved.
Take a look at the following recently released pins - with such a reaffirming message to them for women everywhere:
Mickey's license number is: #1GR8MOUS
Minnie's is simply: #2DMALL
Where's headstrong, intelligent and independent Belle from Beauty and the Beast when you need her?
Maybe she's at the Downtown Disney mall with Minnie?
Something they got right - Something they got wrong
Ok, I know, I can be well... a wee bit critical sometimes. ;) But if it's Disney, despite all the horrible management they have to deal with, and the out to lunch executives that infest Burbank nowadays, you know there are still people in the company trying very hard to do quality stuff.
While sitting in the lobby of the new Grand Californian the other day, someone came up next to me to use the house phone. I'd sort of looked at it earlier, but not really up close. After they finished using it, I started to notice the amazing detail and thought that went into it...
If you look closely at the shot above, you'll notice a few things - first, this is a ROTARY phone. In this day and age, that is simply astounding. Heck, will children know how to use them? ;) Second, you'll notice the label - actually authentic down to the way the extension number is printed on it. Now look at the phone cords - they aren't curled! In phones of this era they were just straight fabric cord, such as these are. Now, if you pick this phone up, you'll find it weighs a ton! Why? Because it is the real thing - a real metal casing - refurbished of course for use now by the hotel.
When they say "Disney's in the Details" - this is a prime example of what they do so well. I got a kick out of seeing the care and attention to details this company is capable of, just in looking at this one object. Wonderful isn't it?
Now of course - sadly - this is the kind of thing we are seeing less and less of with the guys in charge now - and the following situation is what we are seeing way too much of...
In the above shot you can see the walkway under the monorail, as it approaches the mall stop. It is SO low, that you could easily hit a good- sized child's head on it, if they sat on your tall shoulders.
Imagine what could happen if that child reached up to touch the Monorail as it swooped by? Imagine what also could happen if a drunk patron from the ESPN bar across the way decides with a friend to take a look under the train?
How the building inspectors allowed this - I do not know. I do know Disney is aware of the problem, (I saw some folks making notes on this while I shot the photo) and they may be addressing it now.
But why are possible danger spots like this allowed to be built and then opened in the first place this way? Sure people can be dumb and want to climb up on there - but let's get real here - you also try to make things foolproof too.
New Moments with Mr. Lincoln - Part II
I guess you can blame this column - once word got out via the last update (below) that Mr. Lincoln was closing, they apparently moved up the final date to last Sunday to avoid any complaints.
Other details are still sketchy - but it appears with the new Lincoln show we will also get a new Walt's 100th exhibit - possibly MINUS the recreated Walt Disney studio offices that were there before. In Pressler's never ending retail encroachment of Main Street, they may add a shop at the exit to sell the 100th stuff. Hopefully they will keep the retail stuff out of the lobby area to the Lincoln theater, as Pressler had originally wanted.
Walt's offices may now be moved to Orlando, as the centerpiece of a Walt's 100th celebration there, and the building of a duplicate Animation exhibit to the one in DCA out there in one of the parks (probably the Studios is my guess).
Don't they get it though? If you duplicate everything on each coast - (in this mania to save a few bucks) why would anyone then travel to your park on the other side of the country?
Guess that's one that's beyond them?
Many of you have been writing asking what I think of the new park. This week I'll start to be able to give you some feedback about it. Look for it as the week continues. :)
See you at Disneyland, er, ah, the Disneyland Resort that is. Sigh. Like a friend said, the old days of it just being Disneyland is over.
1/3/01 QUICK UPDATE: New Moments with Mr. Lincoln / More photos from the Grand Californian and the Mall / Mad Mouse capacity issues / Improved Merchandise / Package Express to be charged for / More on New Year's Eve at the park
I know, I know, I just did a small update yesterday, but I can't help it, there's news to report...
New Moments with Mr. Lincoln
The Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction will close in the next few weeks. There is conflicting info on the exact date, but sometime in the 3rd or 4th week of January.
As we've been discussing here on the updates, they will redo the entire show, and freshen the theater too. It will still basically be Mr. Lincoln, but new effects will be added and the Civil War theme will be dropped. The Gettysburg Address appears to be the emphasis of the new show. It is scheduled to open for the 4th of July, 2001.
As I understand it, they got a budget of a couple of million, and Paul Presser (once he was talked out of his Ford Theater "off stage" gunshot idea) has actually been taking the lead in making this happen.
Let's keep the fingers crossed here they make this worth seeing again - the biggest problem with the show has been the voice track. It's time to re-record his voice track with new technology.
More photos from the Grand Californian and the Mall
David Lane was kind enough to send along a few more photos from inside of both the Napa Rose restaurant and the La Brea Bakery.
First up, what appears to be the wine bar at the Napa Rose, along with the bar / lounge...
As I mentioned before, very plush.
Next up, two shots inside the Catal Restaurant - first of the bar, second of the small dining area:
We won't tell you where the following shot was taken in the mall, but take a look at the jams and jellies offered...
MY favorite brand, isn't it yours too? :)
Mad Mouse capacity issues
I got e-mail from a kind person:
I reconfirmed the stats after I got your note - that is what Disney is claiming they will do with this attraction.
Now it could be that they customized this model to increase capacity - but with the budgets the way they were I really doubt it. But the numbers are theirs, not mine.
I myself am looking forward to seeing how these capacity issues play out.
What's been the biggest sellers in the new World of Disney store?
Toys of park attractions - in particular of the new rides from the new park.
They seem to have woken up to the fact that people do want attraction specific merchandise - and Disneyland has been aggressively moving in this direction especially with the new park. What a change from what it used to be like when Paul Pressler first came on (with Ann Dale) and tried to turn Disneyland into a carbon copy of the Disney Stores.
It's too bad he can't now take all this newfound wisdom back to the Disney Stores, which are increasingly finding that unless merchandise is drastically reduced they don't have many buyers for it.
From what I understand, already one Disney Store executive has lost his job over the less than thrilling performance of the new test stores
Package Express to be charged for
Now with all that great new merchandise out there you just KNEW there had to be a catch didn't you?
Word is (and several of you have written me about this after being surveyed about it by the parks) that apparently in Pressler's never ending search for every nickel and dime he can wring out of a customer - they now have decided that they will start charging some kind of fee for the Package Express merchandise delivery service they offer.
In case you are not familiar with the service - it basically allows you to shop for what you want, and then either have it delivered to your resort room, or to a package pick up point at the park exit. If you like to shop, and want to make sure your purchases make it home with the least amount of damage or wear and tear from your day at the park, it's really a terrific help.
Since it now appears that they are not satisfied with the increased sales this program is currently providing, they are looking at doing one or several things to the service to make it into a revenue stream.
Look for a fee, scaled to what the size of the purchase is, to be requested at time of purchase - and look for some permutations in how they deliver it. One thing they really want to do is eliminate direct room delivery of items - and have you pick up stuff at the lobby when you get back. Another thing they are looking at is having your purchases meet you at the airport all ready to go. That one isn't exciting anyone too much in all the surveys they've been getting back.
What would make sense here (to me at least) would be to scale the service to the resort. For example, if you are staying at the Grand Californian / Floridian - Package Express would continue to be free of charge and to your room. If you instead are staying at the lower priced All Stars - then you would pay a fee and pick it up in the lobby. People who buy in the parks - and want to pick it up at the exit should continue to get it for free.
Considering how they want to standardize all the services at all the hotels on property now to save money - that probably won't happen. But that's the problem with how the hotels are now run - they just don't seem to understand "high rollers" should get a certain set of perks for spending more on their accommodations.
My suggestion is to just leave things alone. The program works for the most part and it does increase sales. It makes Disney hotels seem like every other Marriott or Hilton on the planet that nickel and dime a visitor to death to do this kind of penny-ante stuff.
But hey, since when is ever a Disney survey about what YOU, the customer, wants? ;)
More on New Year's Eve at the park
From a kind person "in the know:"
I did hear that staffing problems did force a few attractions, like Splash Mountain and Big Thunder, to operate at reduced capacity for several hours during the evening however.
And it seems that the beloved Fastpass is definitely a key player here. During busy days, with 10 Fastpass attractions, there needs to be more for people to do. And it needs to be entertaining, not tired, worn out, and predictable, like some of the older attractions have become.
From what more than a few souls tell me, these past two weeks have thrown the Park for a loop when it comes to overcrowding and Park capacity. It's now finally understood that too much capacity was taken away from the Park in the 1990's, instead of adding more. Fastpass and the Holiday crowds simply forced that issue to the forefront.
Sadly it appears that they will be learning that lesson again when California Adventure and its limited attractions roster opens on February 8th.
Ok, enough for now - I need to get some sleep. See you at Disneyland!
The park did a classy job this year with the New Year's festivities (including two fireworks shows!) - and combined with some stellar crowd and tram controls (more about one smaller problem later) they helped make this one of the most pleasant New Year's I've had to experience at Disneyland. This quick update is just to give you a rundown of what happened that night.
One of the good reasons to have an annual pass is exactly for this kind of special event such as this. With the admission taken care of, I know I can enjoy my evening at the park, experience having to deal with fewer people under the influence (goodness knows how the new park will be with all those alcohol sales), see some terrific fireworks and hear some live music, and on top of all that enjoy spending the day at a place I like.
Of course, having fun means planning ahead, and that we did this time around. First thing was staking out a spot early where a] we could see some of what was going on at the hub, and b] doing it so that we did NOT interfere with the restaurants.
It used to be a couple of years ago we sat at Plaza Inn all day, taking turns holding a table, but after speaking to some cast members the last few years, and also remembering how awful it can be coming out of the restaurant with your hot food to only find there is no seating available - it just made sense and was considerate of us to locate somewhere else. (Especially as we had noted that evening on the LIVE updates that it got to be hours long lines for food at one point).
Of course the new spot didn't have as clear a view of the castle - nor the fireworks, but we didn't mind. What was important was that we kept out of the way pretty much. At the scheduled time, we dispatched some folks to collect our free party favors, as always, Disneyland provided a hat and noisemaker to everyone until supplies ran out.
One good thing the park does when the crowds get especially heavy, is that they deploy more entertainment out through the park. For New Years they traditionally have several groups playing in various locations to do a countdown - below are a few photos (thanks to David Lane) of some of what was going on that night...
Also playing at other locations were a big band at Carnation Gardens, and a couple of smaller combos at locations like the French Market too. Fantasmic had three shows also - reminding one of when that used to be a regular schedule when it first debuted.
After the regular Believe holiday fireworks, they popped on a dance music loop that was a bit too short on the PA system all throughout the park - any loop that has both Ricky Martin and Lou Bega Disney remakes needs to be as long as it can be before they repeat if you ask me...
As has become tradition, some kind soul brought beach balls and started bouncing them out into the assembling crowd in front of the castle as midnight neared - what a sweeheart.
Just before midnight, they lit up the castle and a few live singers came out on the balcony to do a short number - complete with the Disneyland song. (Someone was actually thinking this one out!), Mickey did the countdown and a whole new fireworks show popped off - only a bit shorter than Believe, but just as entertaining and fun.
At the stroke of midnight - a rocket fired off from the castle, lit up some pyro on the top of the Matterhorn to reveal the 2001 sign (seen below),
As much fun as the show was, and as terrific as the fireworks were - it was a great bonus to have two pyro shows in one night - what really impressed me was what happened next.
As the crowd began to move on down Main Street to exit - it do so quickly and orderly. Thankfully Disneyland had plenty of people on hand to direct traffic. Gates were opened to allow almost unimpeded flow right out to the trams, and for the most part by wolf-packing them (loading two trams at a time) - lines were kept to the shortest they could possibly be with that size crowd.
As you could all tell via the live updates we had on the site - it was a busy day for the park - but one that was especially well handled. The park took the initiative this time, hopefully the problems earlier in the week helped them prepare for this one.
We'll have a regular D-I-G update for you later on this week - along with our continued series of articles on the new mall opening. Be sure to take a look at the photo essay we just expanded on the new Grand Californian Hotel - it's an amazing place, were only the rooms a bit bigger it'd be perfect. Too bad they didn't put that much care into the new park itself... ;)
See you at Disneyland...
1/15/01 UPDATE: California Adventure's first overhaul / DCA Preview problems continue / Cast Members DCA feedback / Why Paul Pressler should NOT be in charge of the parks / Getting back to price increases / They should have learned from the Barbie fiasco / Something they got right - Something they got wrong / New Moments with Mr. Lincoln - Part II
1/3/01 QUICK UPDATE: New Moments with Mr. Lincoln / More photos from the Grand Californian and the Mall / Mad Mouse capacity issues / Improved Merchandise / Package Express to be charged for / More on New Year's Eve at the park
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