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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update
4/30 Update - Another fire on the Columbia / More Pooh / Monorail Hotel Guest FastPass / DCA needs the bodies / Disneyland Resort budget cuts coming / Yo-ho socks ahoy! / A belated correction / MouseAdventure thank you

 

Another fire on the Columbia Sailing Ship

You know, you just have to ask yourself, when is enough enough?

The Sailing Ship Columbia had another small fire in the engine compartment after the 9 pm Fantasmic! on Saturday night. The automatic fire extinguishers were activated when billowing smoke came out the back of the boat just as it reached the Indian Village, after running in Fantasmic! as Captain Hook's Pirate Ship.

The Columbia at Fowler's Harbor last Sunday morning
The Columbia at Fowler's Harbor

After some tense moments both onboard the boat and on the shore for the second weekend in a row, the boat was pushed back to the dock behind the Island that is used for Fantasmic! preparations. After everyone onboard was safely off the boat, it was inspected by the Disneyland Fire Department.

It was determined that the engine was unable to run for the second Show on Saturday night, so generators were quickly brought onboard to power the show lighting, and the Columbia was pushed by the emergency barge for the second show of the evening. Fantasmic! can be presented without a Mark Twain, with the Characters dancing around on the Island instead of waving from the passing Mark Twain. But without Columbia and it's integral "Captain Hook" piece mid-show, you can not have a Fantasmic!.

Unlike last weekend however (reported below), the Disneyland Fire Department got an accurate message over the radio from the Fantasmic! show directors about the incident, and a fire engine was NOT driven up Main Street USA to try and reach the Columbia as it sat quietly smoking in the River near the Indian Village.

The Columbia was closed to visitors this past Sunday, and it was pushed again for both show's Sunday night. The Columbia had to be towed out of Fowler's Harbor by an overburdened Raft late Sunday afternoon, which was quite a sight.

Keep in mind, that the Rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island, the Canoes, and the Mark Twain all had to be shut down early Sunday afternoon to facilitate the Columbia towing procedures. Cast Members positioned at all three closed Rivers of America attractions were overheard telling visitors that the attractions were closed early for "technical difficulties."

What is also of interest is that the Mark Twain is scheduled to close for one month in mid-May for a refurbishment, and the Columbia will be operating daily in it's place. Hopefully the problem plagued Columbia will hold out as it operates daily with paying guests onboard.

Rumor has it, T. Irby (who is the guy in charge of "upkeep" at the park - sigh) has served his time, and may be moving on soon. Infamous for apparently delivering budget cuts whenever asked while watching Disneyland crumble around him, we hope his replacement has a little more spine to stand up to Byron Pollitt (head finance guy), Paul Pressler (in charge of parks) and CEO Michael Eisner when it comes to asking for money to keep the park up.

(Although it should be said that the current example of one prominent Imagineer, who is now apparently being exiled for speaking up for quality, may be a big deterrent here. It seems that all the suits want is "yes" men to carry forth their brilliant ideas. If the faltering California Adventure park is any example of what lies in store for future projects at Disney, maybe these suits could stand to hear a few "NOs" every once in a while. As someone observed, "It's one thing when Walt Disney had yes men around him, the guy had great ideas. It's another when Michael Eisner surrounds himself with yes men - the ideas aren't all that brilliant.")

 

More Pooh

The Rocket Rods have been officially sent off to Yesterland, (you can read the news stories on our NEWS page) with no replacement announced, but high level meetings about the Winnie the Pooh attraction for Critter Country continue in late April. Here is what has been hammered out so far in regards to the attractions facts and figures as they now stand:

The attraction is still planned to open in Spring, 2003. That date has not changed. Bruce Gordon is the primary creative director from WDI for the project. Although some high level WDI execs may be shuffled around, and WDI is undergoing layoffs just like the rest of the Company, there is still plenty of talent left in Glendale to handle this modest and very predictable Pooh dark ride.

The total ride time is now expected to be around 205 to 215 seconds, or about 3 and a half minutes. This compares to a ride time at Walt Disney World's Pooh ride of 226 seconds.

The loading and unloading area will be located outdoors, and mostly unsheltered, much like the station area for Alice In Wonderland. However, much of the "Show" will take place indoors in what is now the Country Bear Playhouse show building. The Winnie the Pooh attraction, when completed, will not take up any more room than the Country Bear Playhouse currently does. The new Pooh attraction, with the exception of the outdoor station area, is planned to be completely contained within the current building pad for the Country Bear Playhouse.

The ride vehicles themselves are being based loosely on the Superstar Limo ride vehicles, although they will be a bit trimmer in appearance, and of course themed to Winnie the Pooh. There will be no onboard audio, video, lighting, or special effects however. They will simply be rolling cars moving through typical dark ride settings. The vehicles will seat six passengers, in three rows of two. Each seat will have it's own individual lap bar, instead of the bench-seat style lap bars currently being used on the Fantasyland attractions.

Currently, the Image Capture concept (Disney- speak for "We take your picture on the ride, and then sell it to you at the exit") has been shelved for now at Pooh. This idea could be shoehorned in at a later time, but for now it has been left behind.

Disneyland's "Participant Relations" department is still actively scouting for a sponsor for this ride. Whoever they do end up with could be a bit of a stretch thematically, since no major American company seems to theme well with a doddering British bear. The PeopleMover understandably had Goodyear, with all those Goodyear tires rolling in the track underneath. It's a Small World naturally had Mattel. Even the Space Mountain relationship with Federal Express is understandable, since Space Mountain is such a fast and modern experience. But whoever has their logo slapped onto the Pooh attraction marquee, with the necessary "Presented by" next to it, may not seem as cohesive with the theme as other sponsored Disneyland attractions. A food or snack item sponsorship is the current safe bet.

The Disneyland Pooh attraction "Show" itself is currently planned as a basic copy of the WDW version. None of the animatronics from the Country Bear Jamboree are planned to be included in the new attraction. Nicely painted sets, some 3-D pop up characters, and a peppy soundtrack and dialogue are what is currently planned. None of the more elaborate Tokyo Pooh sets or show concepts are being included in the Disneyland version at this time. It will be painted flat sets, some fiberglass characters with limited movement, and six passenger cars rolling along a standard dark ride track with simple plywood doors swinging open as the vehicles enter the different rooms.

So basically what is currently planned for Disneyland in Spring, 2003 is a very basic and predictable dark ride themed to Winnie the Pooh. Two years ago the Pooh attraction being pitched out at the WDI trailers at Disneyland was a floating honey pot flume ride, with some elaborate sets and Show elements borrowed from the lush Tokyo version of the attraction then in final development. Over the course of two years, the floating honey pots and flume were cut and the Tokyo special effects and cutting edge technology was scrapped. What is left is a basic dark ride themed to Winnie the Pooh, much like what Walt Disney World replaced Mr. Toad with.

The bears may stay until the holidays...
The bears may stay until the holidays...

The Country Bear Playhouse looks like it will be able to continue operating until next Christmas however. Considering all of the other action that is going on in that part of the Park next Fall, the Bears and the Canoes will be the only thing going for at least a month or two. The Haunted Mansion is scheduled to close on Labor Day to begin the month long process of transforming into The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Major downtime coming for Splash Mountain
Major downtime coming for Splash Mountain

At the exact same time, Splash Mountain is scheduled to close for a major 10 week refurbishment. The Splash Mountain refurbishment, needed to install station gates and upgrade the aging lighting and show scenes inside the attraction, was planned over a year ago, before the Haunted Mansion project was given the green light. The Splash Mountain rehab has to begin this fiscal year, which ends September 30th, in order to tap into the rehab funds set aside for it. So for the month of September, both the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain will be closed.

Even when the Haunted Mansion opens in early October as Nightmare Before Christmas, the Critter Country area will be heavily impacted by not having Splash Mountain open. Splash Mountain is scheduled to reopen for Thanksgiving, but then Disneyland will be heading into the busy Christmas weeks, and the Bears will be needed to soak up the crowds with it's popular Christmas Special show. After New Years however, it's lights out for the bears, the construction walls go up, and it will be a race against the clock to get the new Pooh dark ride built and finished for Spring, 2003.

What is also interesting is why Disneyland would pre-plan to have Splash Mountain closed in September and October, two of the warmest months of the year in Southern California, instead of budgeting the closure for the following fiscal year in January and February when small crowds and cool weather significantly diminish the demand for a major water ride.

Who made that decision?

 

Monorail coming into Downtown Disney station
Monorail coming into Downtown Disney station

Monorail Hotel Guest FastPass

The Monorail just started a new program at the Downtown Disney station called "Be Our Guest". It's basically Monorail Fastpass for anyone staying at a Disneyland Resort Hotel. Just show your room receipt, and jump to the head of the line for the next train coming into the station.

It seems many Disneyland Hotel Guests were not happy with the absence of tram service to either Park. The only way to get to the main gate of both Disneyland and DCA from the Disneyland Hotel is to walk all the way through Downtown Disney. It's hoped that by adding an automatic Fastpass option at the Monorail station, Disneyland Hotel Guests will again feel like they are staying at the old Disneyland Hotel for a reason, and are getting at least a perk or two for their considerable money.

I wonder if the suggestion from one of our readers last week for exactly just this kind of service had anything to do with this?  ;)

 

DCA needs the bodies

After initially being told that sign-in privileges at the new California Adventure park (DCA) would not be extended until next September, Disneyland Resort Cast Members were allowed to sign in their friends and family to DCA Mondays through Thursdays starting in March.

When attendance at DCA failed to even come close to expectations for weekdays, the sign-in privilege was suddenly offered to all Resort Cast Members. Now, since even weekend attendance is continuing at a disappointing level, the sign-in privileges are being expanded again. Cast Members can now sign in friends and families to DCA on Fridays and Sundays as well, at least until mid June. Saturdays are still off limits however, just in case people do show up in droves on a sunny Spring Saturday.

Not likely I would think. Even with the massive ad campaign they now have going, not only locally, but in all western markets.

 

Disneyland Resort budget cuts

Budget cuts are being talked about all over the Resort as Summer approaches, since July, August and September make up the last quarter in Disney's fiscal year. Last summer, in a sudden economy drive to deliver impressive numbers to Burbank, Disneyland slashed operating hours and ride capacity all over the Park for July and August, as you can guess, traditionally some of the busiest times of the year. The Matterhorn climbers were sent packing, Woody's Round Up was shuttered at the Golden Horseshoe, and backstage cuts were made all over the place.

Staffing at many attractions was also cut to the bone, most often impacting ride capacity and wait times. The Jungle Cruise ran two or three fewer boats than they were originally budgeted for, the Davy Crockett Canoes left an extra canoe or two tethered to the riverbank, Storybookland pulled off two or three canal boats from their regular fleet, Autopia dropped down to two freeway lanes much earlier in the day than originally planned, etc., etc.

From the rumblings coming from TDA, it looks like those types of cuts could be activated once again this summer, right when the hordes of visitors show up for Disneyland's busiest season. All Resort Operations departments and divisions have spent the last two weeks drafting several versions of economy minded contingency plans. Depending on how big the crowds are at DCA once the Electrical Parade returns, budget cuts of varying severity could then be quickly put into place for the remainder of July, plus August and September.

Pray for crowds folks, or else it could be a very tight summer around the Magic Kingdom.

What is the most discouraging is that Disneyland has been seeing respectable attendance, but it would have to cut the budgets severely to help make up for DCA's inability to meet it's expectations. Disneyland visitors in July and August may be paying for the flopping theme park next door, even though they paid their 43 bucks to visit the proven winner that Walt built.

Remember when we were saying the past few years that DCA might end up being the heroin monkey on Disneyland's back? I would have given anything to be wrong.

Sigh.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

Yo-ho socks ahoy!

The Pirates have their socks again. Several Guests had actually complained that the CM's working at Pirates of the Caribbean didn't look right without their signature red and orange striped socks. In addition, the Adventureland Attractions managers were pressuring Costuming to get some more Pirates socks, since it was becoming a morale breaker for many Pirate CM's to not be able to wear the socks.

The solution was for Disneyland Costuming to request an emergency shipment of Pirate socks from the better managed Costuming Department at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Over a hundred pairs of socks were sent out from Florida, via Federal Express, and promptly distributed to the CM's who work Pirates. Disneyland Costuming has promised to re-establish a relationship with the vendor who makes the unique socks for the beloved Disney attraction.

Now that's nice, but most of the miners at Big Thunder still don't have their blue bandanna's, the Davy Crockett CM's on the Canoes are mostly without their coonskins, and the down-home CM's who drive the Rafts to Tom Sawyer's Island are squinting in the sun without their straw hats.

How much was Michael Eisner's bonus last year?

 

A belated correction

Last Christmas yours truly did two reviews of the Believe Holiday Fireworks show. The first rather negative one was a quick overview of a preview performance, the second more complimentary one was of a later show once the kinks had been worked out.

In my second review, based upon my apparently faulty memory, (and the inability to compare videos of the shows due to a problem with the taping) I had mentioned that from what I heard quite a bit of work had been done on the soundtrack in-between the two shows, immeasurably improving it, and making for a much better experience.

It has now come to my attention (thanks AVP) that for both the preview and later shows the music had been identical, and that only the actual fireworks had been done over for the improved show.

I have to say it's a tribute to the fireworks designers involved that the show itself had been improved so much that even an old Disneyland fart like me could think the music had been changed also.

Just wanted to set the record straight, as this was apparently very important to one person.  :)

 

MouseAdventure thank you

Just a quick thank you to everyone who said hello to me and the MousePlanet staffers at Sunday's huge MouseAdventure event. (And a MAJOR thank you to the MousePlanet team that made it all happen.)

Wow!
Wow!

What a pleasure to hob-nob with everyone, and get to finally meet many of you readers in person. Let's be honest here, without you, we'd have no site. Our increasing numbers (yes - our readership is still growing at about 6% a month - with some major spikes as we continue to get press coverage!) and increased attendance for our events (we grew MouseAdventure by a substantial amount of teams in just six months) shows we really are reaching out and connecting with you.

MousePlanet thanks you all for making us a regular stop on your web travels. We look forward to meeting up with all of you again (and many more new friends) on our next big event. (You can read more about how well it all went, and see photos of the winners and prizes we offered HERE.)

 

See you at Disneyland - should I wear my striped socks you think?


4/24 Update - Before we get to the heavy-duty stuff, some brighter news / California Adventure (DCA) continued attendance problems / Grad nites pushed into DCA / Columbia Sailing Ship and the fire truck on Main Street / Tiki's halfhearted roof make over / Speaking of costumes... / Morale keeps slipping - cast members trapped at DCA / Some brighter news / Mounting company problems ...

Quickly: Rumors have been flying all over the place about the fate of the Main Street Electrical Parade. Will it show up a year early on Main Street on the Fourth of July, the same day the new Mr. Lincoln show opens?

Or will it get sent south to California Adventure (DCA) and become the Performance Corridor Electrical Parade, in an attempt to get DCA attendance up for the crucial summer months?

MousePlanet now has more information on this thanks to David Koenig.

 

Before we get to the heavy-duty stuff, some brighter news

I had to put in something bright to start off today -- if not, park fans would really get depressed after reading today's update.

First, the resort parks had a nice button to hand out to all comers on Sunday for Earth Day. Trilingual (English, French, Japanese), it was a nifty little freebie.

OK, here's the scoop on the Atlantis ride concept from a very kind source:

They (Imagineering - WDI) want to do something with the sub lagoon regarding Atlantis, but its very unlikely at this point. The concept artwork for the proposed attraction shows a sub-like vehicle.

The new feature this time around is that the entire ride is like a claw grabbing game in an arcade, where each person controls a claw as the sub goes along the track. Each rider collects treasures from the bottom of the floor of Atlantis. At the end of the ride, the person with the most treasure wins. It's a "points" style ride like Buzz Lightyear. but again, its most likely not going to happen.

Most likely not.

From another kind source, we find out that at least Buzz is still on track for the old CircleVision Theater / Rocket Rods queue building. Buzz will be an improved version -- 2.0 -- based on what was done for Japan, so it won't be so cutout plywood looking like Orlando's.

The Rocket Rods / old PeopleMover track is being looked at again for a self-propelled coaster. We'll see.

Over at the struggling Disney's California Adventure (DCA) park, Tower of Terror seems to be moving back into the Hollywood area / Timon parking lot (after a brief flirtation with it being put into the Wharf district). Two years for a half-buried version (to keep the drop length, but still hide the tower from Disneyland sight lines) seems to be the time line here. Of course we'll get that new hotel with it, too, at the same time.

The current parade start gate (adjacent to the giant "hubcap" in the central plaza) will be converted into another entryway into the Hollywood area - with the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (from Orlando's Disney-MGM Studios) also being looked at for that section.

As always, this all continues to change at the mere whim of Pressler and company.

 

California Adventure continued attendance problems

California Adventure (DCA) attendance ended Spring Break lamely, with numbers running 55% to 65% of the original estimates of 32,000+ per day. Moving the Eureka Parade to a single showing at 8 PM for the second week of Spring Break helped keep DCA busier into the evening, but by 10 PM the Park was very quiet. Still, it's an improvement from the mass exodus that was happening during the dinner hours until the parade schedule change.

DCA

A picture says a thousand words... above, Disneyland's main gate lines early last Sunday morning - below DCA's desolate main gate at the same time

DCA

Expect to see the Eureka parade only once per day again later this spring and into early summer. There just is not the demand to justify the originally scheduled two parades per day. And the late starting time, in place of two afternoon runs, helps the dinner sales a bit. It's tweaking like this that will continue for the rest of the year, as Team Disney Anaheim (TDA -- the corporate office) tries to figure out how to get blood from an attendance turnip that DCA has become.

DCA

Later on the same Sunday morning - Paradise Pier entryway is lacking in visitors (above) and the California Screamin' coaster's queue is three- quarters empty (below).

DCA

Not many people are taking advantage of the midway games and rides as you can see below... with perfect weather no less!

DCA

Also as a result, DCA has had its hours of operation cut for the rest of spring. Effective April 28th through June 9th, DCA will close at 10 PM on Saturdays. Originally, the new park was scheduled to stay open until midnight on Saturdays, just like its big brother Disneyland across the esplanade. We've all known that DCA attendance is drastically lower than what had been planned by the Team Disney suits and Burbank, but even on mildly busy days DCA empties out very quickly at around 7 or 8 PM. DCA is practically deserted from 9 PM on during weekends. The weekday operations of May and June, with planned operating hours of 9 AM to 9 PM are being looked at to change to 10 AM to 8 PM operations also.

Disneyland will remain open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in May and June, since it appears that there are lots of visitors that enjoy spending 12 hours or more at Walt Disney's original Magic Kingdom.

 

Grad nights pushed into DCA

Meanwhile, the evening "pre-parties" for early-arrival schools (mostly from out of state) during Grad Nights have been moved from Tomorrowland to DCA's Paradise Pier this year. Called "Blast Offs," busloads of high school seniors who had driven hours to get to Disneyland used to be allowed into Tomorrowland to get their party started early. Space Mountain, Autopia, Star Tours and Honey I Shrunk the Audience would be opened just for them, and a DJ would play on the Tomorrowland Terrace stage for dancing. Burgers, shakes, and Cokes were for sale at the Terrace, and once the clock struck midnight the out of town Grads were then allowed into Disneyland while the rest of the local Grads were let in down at the Main Entrance.

This year however, the pre-parties are being held at Paradise Pier in DCA. The attractions (and food locations) are much cheaper to run at DCA, using much less labor than the classic Disneyland attractions in Tomorrowland. Once the clock nears midnight, the grads then get escorted out of DCA and across the Esplanade where they take their place in line with the rest of the Grad Night attendees.

This change of venue is being used as a test to see if Grad Nights could be moved permanently from Disneyland over to DCA. It would be much cheaper to run Grad Nights at DCA, while Disney could still charge the same or higher ticket prices as in previous years when the special nights were held at Disneyland. It seems that the ending of an era is happening all over the place now, and not much is sacred because of the increasing fiscal problems thanks to the tepid attendance the new park is getting. The strict Grad Night dress codes were scrapped by Pressler in 1997 and 1998, and people who attended Disneyland Grad Nights in the '60s, '70s, '80s and early '90s probably wouldn't recognize the event now.

 

Columbia Sailing Ship and the fire truck on Main Street

The Columbia at Fowler's Harbor last Sunday morning
The Columbia at Fowler's Harbor last Sunday morning

After the second Fantasmic! on April 21st, the Sailing Ship Columbia pulled behind Tom Sawyer Island, where it sits before and after the show. As it was coming to a stop, a great deal of white smoke began pouring out of the back of the boat. The boat operators onboard -- all young men in their 20s who are Attractions CMs and who often work the Rivers of America attractions during the day -- engaged the emergency systems and activated an onboard system that floods the engine compartment with fire-suppression chemicals.

Then the Columbia was quickly abandoned at the dock, and radio calls were made to alert appropriate park authorities that there was a lot of smoke coming from the back of the ship. The radio transmission was bounced between several Cast Members from the Entertainment department who direct and control the show. By the time the info was relayed to the Disneyland Fire Department, the restrained original message from the boat drivers had become, "The Columbia is on fire at the dock!" The Disneyland Fire Department, of course, assuming the worst from the limited information they had, then quickly jumped in their fire truck always parked behind the Mr. Lincoln theater.

The fire truck turned on its flashing lights, and pulled out onto a busy Main Street USA. It traveled at a good clip up Main Street and turned left into Frontierland. The truck then pulled around the Golden Horseshoe and ran smack dab into thousands of park visitors still exiting the area after the Fantasmic! show. Lights flashed and Cast Members scrambled to get guests out of the way. Within a few minutes, the fire truck had arrived at the Haunted Mansion and Fowler's Harbor, where the Columbia is docked during the day.

Unfortunately, no one had bothered to notice that the Columbia was sitting behind Tom Sawyer Island, in a location that is basically impossible to reach by truck. The Columbia had already stopped smoking, as the emergency systems onboard the boat seemed to have extinguished the small engine room fire. But now there was a fire truck sitting in front of the Haunted Mansion, and hundreds of bewildered guests and Cast Members wondering what was going on. Almost as quickly as it appeared, the fire truck was led up the trail and into Critter Country, then driven out past Splash Mountain and through the big gates next to the Pooh's Corner store.

This is the first time in a very long time that any sort of emergency vehicle had been brought onstage when there were visitors in the park. Although there was a Skyway evacuation in the early 1990s that required ladders and fire equipment to get stranded riders back onto the ground, this incident is quite possibly the first time ever a fire truck has raced through a busy Disneyland with no warning.

Let's just say we were glad no errant strollers got run over.

The Columbia at Fowler's Harbor last Sunday morning
The Columbia at Fowler's Harbor last Sunday morning

Anyway, this incident was actually foreseen by many people at Disneyland in quite a few departments, as the park still appears to ruthlessly cut back on upkeep and maintenance to ensure Eisner and all the other executives get their bonus this year.

The problem in this one case appears to be with the Columbia's propulsion engines. The motor for the right propeller recently became unmounted, causing serious damage to the drive train. As a result, the electrical load on this motor was increased, and with the damaged drive train adding mechanical loading, the motor was regularly tripping its breakers. As you can imagine, this was forcing major modifications to Fantasmic! to keep the show running. As it is understood, show management was not happy, and facilities management continued (up until the fire) to insist that nothing was wrong.

I have to ask here: Does someone have to get hurt again before proper upkeep is done?

Personally, after taking a nice cruise around the river last Sunday on the Mark Twain Riverboat, I cannot say I would do the same on the Columbia at this time. As an informed reader, you can make that decision on your own upon your visit.

Oh, and speaking of maintenance problems - the Sun (Ferris) Wheel at DCA's Paradise Pier has one of its four motors burned out already, hence the many problems with it being shut down a lot.

Guess those carnival rides aren't holding up.

 

Tiki's half-hearted roof make-over

The damaged Tiki Room roof last January - it is still like this.
The damaged Tiki Room roof last January - it is still like this.

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room should have its roof thatching replaced in May. The condition of the exterior of this badly decaying attraction has been the most blatant example of poor maintenance at Disneyland, and Facilities and TDA is mad as hell that so many embarrassing pictures have ended up online.

There will be no painting or woodwork maintenance performed during this quick fix. They simply ordered dozens of yards of replacement thatching and will be laying it down over the woodrot-infested roof. The nonworking show effects on the lanai, and inside in the beloved show itself, won't be touched. It is just a patch job to replace the moldy and mangy looking grass thatching that is falling off the roof of the building.

In addition to the sad physical state of the facility, the colorful and unique Tiki Room costumes will be going away very shortly. The Costuming department doesn't have the budget anymore for such specific costumes. In place of the hula shirts and mu'umu'us, Tiki Room CMs will now just wear khaki Jungle Cruise costumes.

In 1999, an Attractions manager who thought highly of the Enchanted Tiki Room worked hard to bring the signature Tiki Room costume back, after it had been shelved earlier in the 0s when attractions honcho Pressler came in. Unfortunately, that manager is no longer there to keep the Tiki Room costume from going the way of Yesterland, and the current costuming mindset is to get rid of as many costumes as possible, and drastically slim down the available roster.

 

Speaking of costumes...

Have you also noticed that the CMs at Pirates of the Caribbean aren't wearing their signature-striped socks anymore? Costuming can't seem to find the funds to purchase any more striped socks, so the khaki socks from the Jungle Cruise are now being issued by Costuming to Pirates CMs.

There are still a few striped socks to be found, but they all belong to CMs who had the foresight to save a pair or two in their backpacks or handbags they bring to work. The socks are now held onto by the few CMs who have them, and some of the sharp-eyed visitors are asking the CMs who are wearing the ugly khaki replacements that clash with the rest of the costume, "What happened to the striped socks you guys used to wear?"

Never mind that up until just a few years ago, a CM working at Pirates for the day was also issued brass buckles that attached to their shoes, and Pirate hosts were given striped beanie hats to wear as well. Since Costuming can't even purchase the basic blue bandannas anymore that had long been issued to Big Thunder Mountain hosts to wear around their necks, the unique Pirate socks are obviously out of the question. [How much would buying a gross of bandannas from Wal-Mart cost?]

Also recently gone are coonskin hats once worn by CMs at Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes, several different costumes worn by Toontown CMs, and folksy straw hats worn by the drivers of the Rafts to Tom Sawyer Island.

As you can imagine, it appears to many CMs that the Disneyland Costuming department is simply imploding into itself. It was always the wonderful details like uniquely themed costumes that set Disneyland apart. Nowadays, the people controlling the budgets, such as Bryon Pollitt, don't seem to care.

As if Costuming's headaches couldn't get worse... As part of first wave of budget cuts, the Cast Member Costuming building will be closing every Wednesday for the foreseeable future. Cast Members will not be allowed to turn in old costumes or receive new ones on Wednesdays starting the first week of May. This is to save money on staffing the poorly designed costuming facility that was built last year to serve both parks.

When the new building first opened, lines of up to 45 minutes long formed at the issue windows, and a fist fight even broke out one afternoon at a shift changeover between CMs struggling to get to the overburdened costume issue windows. The fix to the mess meant that hundreds of extra labor hours had to be scheduled for Costuming CMs to handle the rushes. The fallout to all this is that it's now time to slash costs, and Costuming is now only open six days a week.

The burden is again pushed onto the hourly CMs who have to work around the restrictive schedule, all because the TDA planners failed miserably in their attempt to cheaply build a Costuming facility that could service both parks.

 

Morale keeps slipping - cast members trapped at DCA

Morale among salaried CMs -- both in onstage operational roles as well as in backstage administrational roles -- is falling quickly. The shock of the layoff announcement has worn off, and now the unease and sadness has set in for many. There is precious little information being doled out to these folks by their executive superiors as to whether or not they should take the severance package offered to them in early April.

The deadline for making a decision is April 27th, and then the layoffs come later in May. Cynthia Harriss has made a commitment that all decisions and restructuring will have been completed by June 1st, and all layoffs will have been announced and wrapped up. Still, no one seems to be able to get a read on whether they should take the severance package or not. It's becoming obvious to many salaried folks that even the big execs in TDA and Burbank aren't exactly sure what is happening here. The silence on the subject is deafening.

Morale is falling fastest amongst hourly DCA CMs who had transferred over from Disneyland early in the year. The deadline to transfer back to their old roles at Disneyland is in early May. Hundreds of CMs are scrambling to turn in transfer papers and secure their spot outside of the lame-duck DCA.

So many DCA CMs have applied to transfer back that many will not be able to get back to Disneyland until next October, which is not what they were told when they applied to transfer to DCA back in 2000. The information given originally was that transfers would be easy, quick and painless during the first 120 days of official DCA operation.

The unexpected flood of disillusioned and unhappy CMs overwhelmed the poorly planned system, and many DCA CMs are now stuck there for months to come. There are even dozens and dozens of DCA Attractions Cast Members that were hired off the street back in January to work at DCA, and who are now desperately trying to get transfers over to Disneyland.

It seems their fellow co-workers who once worked at the Happiest Place On Earth, have been filling these off-the-street CMs' heads with stories of a magical park that has wonderfully themed attractions, happy visitors, and a rewarding working environment.

At least for now...

 

Today's Animation cutbacks

...are just the start of many such actions at Disney folks.

[By the way, what today's Times story didn't tell you was that the focus in Animation will be switched from features to made-for-videos and TV shows (including the new Atlantis TV show).

I guess with this kind of news that Roy Disney is being pushed out?]

Getting back on subject here... what used to be one of the most finely tuned marketing and merchandising engines in the business is badly misfiring thanks to some colossal mistakes made by the suits in charge.

It seems that the two newest parks (which Eisner and Pressler have had the most hand in) are turning out to be failures with the public. Discounting is expected to take its toll on the resorts as they try to keep numbers up. Meanwhile, Consumer products is twisting in the wind due to massive overexposure of many their core brand items. Also, the proposed Disney store makeover is turning out to be a flash-in-the-pan. On the movie side, they have a tough sell with Atlantis, (which is getting a mixed buzz) and a possible hit with Pearl Harbor - but we'll have to see what's really happening there once they open. Both cost a lot, and will have to make an awful lot to succeed.

Add to all these problems a slowing economy, and you have a recipe for even more cutbacks, further retrenchment and increasingly diminished profits. Gotta make sure Eisner gets his multimillion dollar bonus, you know.

Too bad Disney's board of directors is practically worthless. They certainly are only looking out for one person. And it isn't the regular stockholder.

What a shame to see such a quality company and sterling brand name run into the ground like this.

 

See you at Disneyland, folks -- you know, the park that used to be maintained?


4/17 Quick Update - Long lines due to work actions? / Crowds come to DCA, but at what cost? / DCA Catch Up / Meanwhile... catching up at Disneyland (and environs) / Back in Burbank...

 

Long lines due to work actions?

I got the following very interesting note last week:

Well, Easter is here. Hope you people are enjoying the longer than usual lines. Unusual for Easter? No. Longer than they should be since Disneyland is having to operate rides at reduced capacity. Why is that? Lack of employees, true. But the employees that ARE there are refusing to do overtime or even extend beyond their scheduled shifts. Come in on a day off? Not a chance! Early? Forget it! All because of your friend and mine Cast Deployment.

It seems that Cast Members are protesting this horrendous policy the only way that will make the company listen, by a work slowdown. I've seen this happen as I was in tower when the call was made to supervision that rides had to go reduced because of people leaving and refusing to extend.

The union that represents Attractions people are preparing to fight CD come contract negotiation next year. Cast Members have been instructed to keep a log of EVERY bump and EVERY break. If bumps take longer than 30 minutes, WRITE IT DOWN. If breaks aren't on time, LOG how late it is. This info will be used in negotiations. If Cast Members don't do this, then Tomorrowland is the first to get the computer CD system this fall.

How well is this effort organized? I've been monitoring lines in the parks (via phone calls from in park MousePlaneteers and other visitors) since I got this note a few days ago, and it may have some bearing on what has been happening.

We'll keep you up to date as conditions change (if they do). But this isn't good news, especially if you schedule a visit as most people do, on the more crowded weekends - Saturday taking the cake.

(Attractions head) Pressler / (Head honcho) Eisner / (Financial head) Pollitt keep forgetting - that for every action they take to pinch a penny, there will be a reaction... and the customers bear the brunt of it usually.

 

Crowds come to DCA, but at what cost?

Finally, the crowds came last Friday (Good Friday), with numbers around 30,000, which were closer to projection than had happened lately. Numbers did drop back down a bit on Saturday, and then bumped up slightly for Sunday. I'm still awaiting more exact figures - but the recent Times story (quoted on our NEWS page) did manage to get quite close from what I understand.

How did they get those crowds there? They did it with a very expensive local ad push, one that seemingly got put into place in a real hurry. I kept hearing words like "last minute," "panic" and "whatever it takes" when it came to how this all came together - in particular one TV ad guy e-mailed me and said this was the fastest he'd ever seen Disney book ads ever. (And amazing they would have to do it on a holiday period too when you think about it - a period when crowds SHOULD be showing up anyway...)

Internally they were claiming a "resort attendance record" - which (as I mentioned yesterday in the Ask Al™ section) they may try and hype to let folks know that the park was pulling in numbers - but they may want to hold their horses a bit, if yesterday's less than stellar numbers hold through the week.

The key to all this of course is just how much was spent - which if we can figure the number, can be split by the attendance increase this past weekend. A few insiders have mentioned that "it was very expensive" and they may have set some sort of their own "resort record" in a per head cost in this last burst of spending.  All this isn't good - since it means they will have to keep throwing money out to bring bodies in, and any hype they had hoped to build before they opened the park has completely dissipated.  Yes, the weather was good finally - but that doesn't seem to be the factor here that PR flack Ray Gomez is really trying to make it out to be.

One other thing they do have going here, which is not promising at all, is that as more and more people do visit - the word of mouth is just not good. One person in the travel business IM'd me with feedback from travel agents / experts in the Las Vegas area, they were saying that clients were very negative about the new park. Disney's own surveys (if they are allowed to be honest ones) continue to be less than enthralling - the main complaints still being lack of things for kids to do, and the overall lack of attractions and night activities. Up there on the complaint list is the high prices for food and the frequent closures of attractions - having the Sun Wheel (Ferris wheel) down all this past weekend for more problems didn't help. I can usually back all that up with the feedback I get here on the site - the number of unhappy visitors writing is usually three to four times that of the ones who do like it.

As mentioned yesterday, they have even reduced the "Eureka" parade performances, so they can draw a bigger crowd with only one show at 8 PM, keep the crowds a bit later, and also realize some cost savings over having to keep the performers on for two shows.

What kind of changes will be in store to try and fix all this? Expensive ones everyone fears - costs that could have been a third of what they will eventually end up if they had only planned for these very apparent problems ahead of time. "Mark my words, they will fix it..." one kind source told me, "they have to, if nothing else to prove they weren't wrong and make Eisner look good. But it is a real waste of money to go in and fix everything that they knew would be a problem from day one."

Somehow I don't think that turning "Superstar Limo" into "Goofy's Hollywood Tour" will even begin to fix the problems that are hard wired into this place. We'll see. So far, (to make matters worse) advance Summer bookings outside of the Disney Hotels themselves are not up to the numbers the local businesses were expecting. Add to that the increasing problems with declining attendance at Animal Kingdom in Orlando, and it is not pretty.

 

DCA (California Adventure) Catch Up

Some miscellaneous items here, so I've dropped them into one section for you:

 

Remember that item I ran about the boy band tying up the Grizzly River Run raft ride for most of the day at the new park for a music video? While paying visitors sat outside the ride fuming? And the one about the massive complaints they had about the "Spy Kids" premiere ticket holders? Here's more on those two items from a kind soul "in the know:"

Anyways, to clarify what happened the day BB-Mak came to GRR, the ride was indeed broken down. The computer kept on reporting numerous faults, which kept stopping the ride. BB-Mak was supposed to come down on the attraction to film (which the film crew showed up late for... typical) but they were supposed to do it on an actual ride-through with the mounted camera on the raft, seen during opening week for the media.

Film crew with BB-Mak
Film crew with BB-Mak

That's the reason why they had to "jury-rig" a shot for the shoot, hence the height-check paddles being used to splash the band in the raft and the film shoot people jumping up and down on the raft like monkeys, to simulate the raft going over rapids. The whole time they were there, and before, Facilities was slowly working on the situation. I THINK (it's been a while since then) I recall hearing that the faults having to do with the water-level sensors at last drop (Grizzly Go-Round) and then later at the first drop (Bear Claw Falls) runoffs. They were reading that the water levels in those two zones were too high for some odd reason.

Needless to say, most of the GRR crew thought that it was PRETTY INCONSIDERATE of the film crew to have a shoot while the attraction was down. They even walked all their equipment and extras through the queue near the FRONT of the attraction and some hung out at the exit stairs (most of them merrily talking on their cell phones), while all the while in plain sight of all the Guests that the Cast was trying to talk to... because the Cast knew that Guests would think that GRR went down because of film shoot and not for the real reason, which really was technical difficulties... anyways, film crews aren't the most well-liked group of people by ANY Attractions crew, believe me. >:)

As for Spy Kids... that has to be one of the worst days in the Park that I've ever had. Marketing had told these "special" Guests for the Spy Kids premiere that they had "special" privileges, but that information wasn't trickled down the information chain to the front-line Cast Members (who naturally thought that these Guests were trying to take advantage, a typical reaction since they see that kind of stuff all the time).

So needless to say there were a lot of problems and Marketing / Guest Relations now HOPEFULLY knows better then to tell "special" groups of Guests something like that again... because most Cast Members working that day were getting harassed, assaulted, and yelled at to the point that some Cast Members I know wound up in tears. Overall, the Spy Kids group was the rudest group of people I have ever encountered (they beat the Brazilian teens at Walt Disney World... and that's saying a lot!).

Interesting no? Meanwhile they continue to have problems with the raft ride, it was down for a good part of last Sunday morning when I was there too.

 

DCA has started a breakfast push - via a flyer handed out to visitors as they arrive in the morning. They offer the following options:

ABC Soap Opera Bistro (Hollywood Backlot area): "Breakfast on the Set" offers you the choice of ONE entree, either Salmon or Banana Waffles, along with "all you can eat breakfast delicacies" (my guess here is that we're talking muffins, Danish, etc.) brought to your table. The price seems high (a continuing problem in this park) - $17.99 for adults, kids 3 to 11 $9.99. It's served Saturdays and Sundays only, 8 to 10:30 AM (thereby blowing off the brunch business I guess).

Mailburitos (Paradise Pier area): "Breakfast Burritos" with marinated machaca (stringed) beef or chicken and scrambled eggs wrapped in one of those warm flour tortillas (probably from the nearby factory). These are a more reasonable $4.59 each, but again they only serve on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 10:30 AM.

Taste Pilots' Grill (Condor Flats area): A choice of French toast sticks, or hot biscuits and gravy, or a breakfast sandwich. Prices are set at a more reasonable $4.99 to $5.29. Again they only serve these from park opening until 10:30 AM, blowing off weekend brunch opportunities.

Also, two other locations are pitched on the flyer, but with less to offer:

Pacific Wharf Cafe (Pacific Wharf area): Baked goods, croissants, Danishes, muffins, scones, etc. Plus "gourmet" coffees and fruit juices. The kicker here is that they only will open an hour after the park does.

Bakersfield Bakery (Main entry): Baked goods, croissants, Danishes, muffins, scones, etc. Plus "gourmet" coffees and fruit juices. Same menu that is offered all day basically.

[Do note that if you have a "Magic Morning Breakfast Voucher" they accept them at all locations, with a $7.50 credit offered towards the more expensive breakfast at the Soap Opera Bistro.]

What's missing? A gourmet character breakfast buffet would be nice at Avalon Cove - which would include Mickey & Minnie (right now only available for character meals at the Club 33 brunch). Something like this could possibly pack in some early crowds (at a premium price) don't you think? Make it reservations only, and watch the high end consumer show up, right?

But, hmmm, maybe that's too good an idea? ;)  Let's just be glad they are acknowledging breakfast at least, that's consumer friendlier than they have been with most decisions at that park since opening...

 

Someone was kind enough to write me about the DCA Caramel Corn crisis I was having an update or so ago...  :)

I was just writing to you to inform you the reason that we run out of caramel corn so often is that the whole process to make it does take about 30-35 minutes after that it takes about 10 minutes to cool down.

We can only make one batch at a time and once we start to run out we start making a new one. Maybe next time you might be able to get some caramel corn... good luck.

Thank you for the note, I ran into the same problems again this past weekend - and frankly was wondering if they were just hiding the stuff from me.  ;) 

The process does sound way too cumbersome from what you describe. It's too bad they can't maintain at least one facility making caramel corn in bigger batches backstage, to keep the carts replenished as they continue to make smaller batches for show.

If they can restock you guys with cold sodas and other items, this seems like one thing they can do for you that would help keep this item in stock.

 

Meanwhile... catching up at Disneyland (and environs)

Two of the electrical parade floats have popped up backstage and are getting ready to be worked on. A kind soul informed me that we probably won't get the Pinocchio units back, since they went to Paris for their parade. So it looks like we may get a shorter parade. (Some of you may actually like that.)

I guess all of this makes Disneyland's statements that "the parade was going away because it was too far gone to fix" seem like a bunch of hogwash, right? Anyway, let's hope for a newly recorded soundtrack, utilizing better technology for the electronic music.

 

In case you were wondering what happened as far as overhauling the attraction during the last Pirates rehab, here's the list (thanks to a kind soul):

New boat loading gates
New cavern lighting
Redo of Hurricane scene (new scrim)
Improved lighting in Burning City, Jail, Creaking Timbers, and Arsenal scenes.
New Treasure in the Treasure room
Multi-colored the fiber optic marquee

Now can they paint the Mansion, (and ToonTown) - pretty please?

 

For those of you planning a side visit to Sea World - I got an update on their power situation from a kind soul, which I will pass on to you:

I was reading where you talked about power problems... and you mention SeaWorld. They made it very "public" to the employees that we need to conserve power, and we hardly turned on the lights on the skytower this holiday season. From what I understand, since we're being really good about the power, the city is going to do whatever it has to in order to have us spared from the blackouts...

As soon as the park closes, and guests are gone (about 1/2 an hour...) all of the walkway lights are shut down, all closed facility lights shut down, stadiums & rides. Even when guests are still there they don't turn the lights on to a few exhibits. However, Rocky Point (Dolphin petting area) does keep their lights on until about midnight.

Just wanted to letcha know! (However, SeaWorld does occasionally have it's own in-house power outages around the park... but that's rare.)

This checks out with what I heard, I'll keep my ears to the ground for the other parks to see what is happening.

 

Back in Burbank...

Fellow MousePlaneteer Robert Meyer asked me:

Any word on how the Spy Plane issue is affecting Hong Kong Disney? Anyone at Disney mentioning concerns with how this could affect them?

From what I could find out Robert, they winced a bit but are still firmly on track. As I was told "This is one time Eisner was happy he had a Republican administration in the White House, as they want business interests that want to get into that big market appeased."

 

I keep hearing rumors anyone connected with the Disney Stores (or Consumer Products for that matter) should be keeping their resumes very up to date. Eisner, I was told, "keeps wondering what all this high priced talent is doing, as the stores continue to languish."

Hmmm, maybe the head honcho former Nike guy should take a look at the job listings on the Adidas web site?  ;)

 

I guess I'll see you guys at California Adventure? And to think, I'll be there without an expensive ad campaign. Heck, unlike many visitors, I may even keep going back...  (it's that Caramel Corn I tell ya...)  ;)


4/10 Quick Update - Lights, Camera, Cancelled / Clarifications / Park hopping allowed, if you're rich!

 

Lights, Camera, Cancelled

Lights, Camera, Cancelled

From one source last night:

The Latest scoop in Hollywood (Pictures Backlot), is (the California Adventure show) Lights, Camera, Chaos! will have its final Curtain call on April 22.

Anne Hamburger has once again made her move. She decided that since there was nothing she can do to "fix" it, she would close it instead. It has been in the works for about 2 weeks now. The cast is being told tonight. So, the Backlot stage will close down, and have many more Magic Music Days groups. Oh goodie a chance to make more money.

Anne is making her mark on the park(s) let me tell you. Heck she is bringing in all of her buddies and making it all about her.

Anne is making lots of friends at Disneyland, I had to edit the above note a bit for a family audience...  ;)

From another:

A new "Goofy" show may be going in there. A new show on the Golden Dream Stage may also be in the works...

Hoo -- boy. The ONE thing that had some originality and strived for something different at DCA, and Anne cancels it.

Too bad. This was a unique show, that didn't need all that much more of a tweak to be a really great experience. (They could have toned down the rather shrill "diva" role, and tightened up some of the choreography a bit more.)

After Anne's "fix" for the "Steps in Time" show, I'm not so sure I want to see what she does to Goofy.

 

Clarifications

A lot of information goes by this keyboard, and sometimes, even with three checks on everything - important details can get by you.

Yesterday, in an item I had mentioned they may finally be throwing in the towel on discounting by allowing students to get into the parks at a discounted rate. Well... it turns out the program had been in effect since before the new park opened. It may not have been very well publicized though, hence my sources mistaking it for new.

Oh well - - -

By the way, UCLA students can also take advantage of the offer.

 

Someone was kind enough to write me about the DCA Eureka Parade balcony reservations:

They are made at the DCA Guest Relations WINDOW (outside the park, just like Fantasmic), not inside the park.

 

Park hopping allowed, if you're rich!

On to park hopping finally being allowed on some Flex passes -- Clyde wrote:

It seems that Eisner, Pressler and Harriss have already begun to give up on the notion that DCA deserves it's own separate admission and is now going to include us "peons" staying at Good Neighbor Hotels in the park hopping experience formerly reserved for the elite Disney Resort guest!

This was big news in our household, as it settled a dispute between my wife and I regarding our December trip. She wanted to spend a day at DCA, but I didn't want to waste our time and money at such a family-unfriendly park. Now, my wife is doing a jig because she can drag me across the esplanade to see all the DCA rides shut down for "refurbishment" or repair.

C'mon, Al, take your mind off the Rocket Rods and Toontown signs and dig up the meaty tidbits! ; )

Rocket Rods and Toontown signs are important. Someone has to report on all that stuff for the readers...  ;)

Believe it or not - I did get wind of this and was taking a closer look - but I was kind of stunned at how difficult the offer seems to be to take advantage of for most Disneyland Resort visitors. It appears that simply buying two park annual passes will most probably still be the best deal.

Why? Because you cannot park hop unless you buy four, five or six day tickets at Disneyland's "Good Neighbor" hotels (I've listed them at the end of this update.) Three day visitors (the greatest majority of our readers thanks to surveys we've been taking and have seen) are still being locked out.

As far as early entries that come with the flexes - they've been selling so many tickets, that they can't be taken seriously anymore as any kind of advantage for visitors.

Clyde, I'm glad this may work out for your family - and it is important news for you. But it still isn't much of a solution for most of our readers. Hence, no breathless reporting of this tidbit until I could find out more about it. (We're still waiting to confirm pricing too - something people do need to know about.)

Frankly, I'm still waiting for a twenty / twenty-five dollar add on to the single day ticket and / or a two / three day hopper pass - now *that* will be something everyone will be interested in, and many can afford.

And it may be what saves their butt on this huge project.

Something tells me it won't be too much longer...

 

Good Neighbor Hotels:

Hawthorn Suites Ltd., Anaheim | Marriott Residence Inn Orange | Sheraton Anaheim Hotel | Crowne Plaza Resort | Hilton Anaheim | Anaheim Marriott | Hyatt Regency Alicante | Doubletree Hotel Anaheim / Orange | Courtyard By Marriott Buena Park | Best Western Park Place Inn | Park Inn International | Anaheim Fairfield Inn By Marriott | Best Western Anaheim Inn | Hilton Garden Inn | WestCoast Anaheim Hotel | Candy Cane Inn | Howard Johnson Hotel | Best Western Stovall's Inn | Carousel Inn & Suites | Portofino Inn & Suites | Radisson Hotel Maingate -- Anaheim | Best Western Pavilions | Quality Hotel Maingate | Hampton Inn & Suites | Holiday Inn Anaheim At The Park | Conestoga Hotel at the Park | Tropicana Inn & Suites | Anaheim Red Roof Inn | Travelodge International Inn Anaheim | Ramada Maingate Saga Inn | Santa Ana Red Roof Inn | Anaheim Ramada Inn | Jolly Roger Hotel

 

Anyone going Easter Sunday to the park? Disneyland should be pretty busy!


4/9 Update - Could they be admitting defeat? / Gotcha! - Rocket Rods sign changed - other Disneyland tidbits / DCA attendance continues to be soft / DCA Mad Mouse rumors - other tidbits / Boy band & singer at Disneyland ...more

Here's an update just to catch up on some smaller items, special thanks to Dan Steinberg for a few things here...

 

Could they be admitting defeat?

Disney is offering two special tickets to USC students (and possibly other groups as well, you may wish to enquire at your place of work or education). The offers are for either:

"Spend the Day at Disneyland park" for $34

"Visit Two Theme Parks in Two Days!" (one admission to DL, one admission to DCA) for $70

These rates are good March 1 through June 20, excluding Saturdays and May 27, and for all ages over 2 (i.e., no children's discount).

A bit early for discounts isn't it?

 

Gotcha! - Rocket Rods Sign changed - other Disneyland tidbits

Yep, ATMs in both parks are no longer free. There is now a $1.50 transaction fee if you do not have a Union Bank ATM card. (On top of what your own bank will charge you for not using their machines.)

 

The sign at the entrance to the ride before...

...and now after...

So when does Ray Gomez (PR flack for Disneyland) announce they are history?

 

The sign outside Toontown may say that it closed at 8 PM, but it was actually open until 8:30. Why? A ride operator says it was because they can't find the "30" for the sign...

 

The Cast Members (CMs) at the Disneyland hub area wait board tell visitors that the Country Bears will be open until closing time. The Country Bears CM said they close at 9 PM.

 

DCA attendance continues to be soft

Wait until Spring Break, everyone said (...including us). Disneyland has been echoing that same mantra to all the press that's been calling lately asking what is going on with the attendance.

Well, the early numbers are still soft for this past weekend - and although they are slightly up from before (currently reflecting Spring Break) they are still nowhere near what they had projected.

Even worse - the park continues to empty out early - one of the more profitable times for Disney normally, as crowds do their shopping and dining (lured by lots of attractions not yet seen, fireworks and shows). This is in particular killing the dining revenues they had been counting on.

The "hole" in the theme park division budget expectations this pattern is building is only aggravated by the similar problems being experienced by Animal Kingdom back east in Orlando. (That park is actually watching numbers decline week to week.)

Although Disneyland has just started a major new ad campaign to continue hiring Cast Members (CMs) here in the Los Angeles area...

...chances are good that there will be more cutbacks, in particular among the higher paid, and longer employed ranks, which consists of middle management and up.

By the way - they must really be hurting for job seekers. The billboard pictured above was photographed near the corner of Melrose and Western in Los Angeles, a good 45 minutes to an hour away from Disneyland proper. I guess in a tight job market, they no longer are requiring potential job candidates to be located closer to the resort itself.

 

DCA (California Adventure) Mad Mouse rumors - other tidbits

Even though the Mad Mouse coaster (labeled as Mulholland Madness) reopened for business this weekend (hey, they had to do something, the Zephyr can't operate in the mild breezes we've been having lately) the rumor now is that it may be one of the first things to go from the new park. "Too many dislocated shoulders on riders" was the lament - even with a slight change on a brake point.

The wild whisperings hitting the resort include that a] the thing has already been sold to someone else and that b] it would be removed shortly.

With Disney needing everything they can get to operate running for what few crowds are showing up - if this rumor has any truth to it - they will probably delay any action on this until after Spring Break.

My eyebrow is arched on this one...

 

One of the things they should have done is spent the $200,000 when DCA was built to put in the basic conduit for the planned lagoon show (which they need so badly now). Thanks to "saving" what amounts to chump change for a company of this size, the cost to now do the same thing when they finally get around putting the show in will increase to well over two million dollars (on top of what they will already be spending).

Again the villain here is financial honcho Byron Pollitt's shortsighted fiscal management - aided and abetted by Paul Pressler (head of theme parks) and Michael Eisner himself. "Dropping dollars to pick up dimes" is what one person in the know told me. "It's only seeming to get worse, and not better."

Not only was the conduit cut from the budget, but so was a gate / harbor area that would lead into the "Paradise Bay" body of water - where any boats or floating units could be staged out of sight of visitors until the show was ready to begin. This means anything staged on the lagoon will have to be set up during the afternoons, and any equipment needed will have to be out in full view all the time.

And people wonder why accountants shouldn't be running shows...  ;)

 

Meanwhile someone in foods got the idea that they needed a Fantasmic dessert buffet experience at the new park. So now they are selling $41 tickets for a "Eureka! Experience - An exclusive dining and viewing adventure."

The balcony where you view the parade from is located on the back of the Pacific Wharf's Boudin Bakery building - which can be seen across the way from the Mondavi winery (as shown above). For your forty plus bucks, you get (their words here) "assorted hors d'oeuvres, petit soup bowls, a tantalizing dessert buffet, plus sparkling wines, sodas and coffees." You need to book at DCA's Guest Relations for this (at the entrance of the park) and the seating takes place 45 minutes before the parade starts. The procession also makes a show stop in front of the balcony, extending your time up there a bit.

Unfortunately they made a rather poor choice of parade photograph for the flyer promoting this...

Flyer photo © Disney
Flyer photo © Disney

...let's hope it's only the choreography that gave this performer a rather awkward moment, as opposed to some slight gastrointestinal distress from, oh maybe the buffet that is being promoted?  ;)

 

One of the things I do really enjoy about DCA is the fact they offer freshly made caramel corn at the popcorn carts. Yes, it's obscenely overpriced at $4.50 a serving - but it is simply delicious - that is IF you can manage to get a serving of it.

This is the third weekend in a row where I cannot purchase a cup at mid-afternoon on the day of my visit. "We're fresh out!" they cheerily tell me, as I wander from one cart to the next around the park. "Come back in 45 minutes to an hour!" they happily tell me. Talk about deflated expectations.

It's no wonder they can't meet revenue projections, they can't even keep this high profit item available for purchase.

 

Boy band / singer at Disneyland

In the interest of alerting folks to anything they may deem worthwhile, the Disneyland Today guide this weekend listed the following Disney owned boy band and singer scheduled to play at Disneyland's Tomorrowland Terrace this week, starting today:

Youngstown: Mon. & Tue. 7 & 9 PM / Wed. & Thur. 7 & 9:45 PM

Ashley Ballard: Wed. & Thur. 6:30 & 9 PM

Now the question needs to be asked here - why if the new park is in dire need of nighttime entertainment, did they schedule these acts at Disneyland itself, which has been more than exceeding projections lately?

I know the label is probably looking to expose them to the biggest crowds possible - hence this decision. But they should have reconsidered getting a smaller crowd for them in exchange for goosing up the new park's empty nighttime schedule.

Dysfunctional synergy eh?

 

Annual Pass renewal tip

I understand that you can avoid going into Disneyland and braving the long lines at the passport processing centers by just going up to the Group Sales window (to the left [west] of Disneyland's main entrance gate). So long as you don't need a new photo, they can upgrade your passport to the new two park ones, or just upgrade the one park one. That may save you some time if you are busy that day.

 

That should do it for today, but maybe we'll meet up at the DCA Eureka buffet? Hopefully the food is good...  ;)

ON THIS PAGE

4/24 Update - Before we get to the heavy-duty stuff, some brighter news / California Adventure (DCA) continued attendance problems / Grad nites pushed into DCA / Columbia Sailing Ship and the fire truck on Main Street / Tiki's halfhearted roof make over / Speaking of costumes... / Morale keeps slipping - cast members trapped at DCA / Some brighter news / Mounting company problems ...

4/17 Quick Update - Long lines due to work actions? / Crowds come to DCA, but at what cost? / DCA Catch Up / Meanwhile... catching up at Disneyland (and environs) / Back in Burbank...

4/10 Quick Update - Lights, Camera, Cancelled / Clarifications / Park hopping allowed, if you're rich!

4/9 Update - Could they be admitting defeat? / Gotcha! - Rocket Rods sign changed - other Disneyland tidbits / DCA attendance continues to be soft / DCA Mad Mouse rumors - other tidbits / Boy band & singer at Disneyland ...more

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