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Al Lutz
Archived D-I-G Update
6/25 Update - The spin is making me dizzy / The DCA fixes / Layoffs - La Harriss speaks! / McDonalds expands / Can't spend our Disney dollars when the cash registers are closed can we? / New at Disneyland / Disney box offices notes

 

The spin is making me dizzy

Oy-vey! After last week's barrage of press discussing Disney's sudden price reduction for the troubled California Adventure park (in particular the unheard of [for Disney] free kid's admissions) the Disney executives were all pressed into service to do spin control.

It's amazing to read - almost dizzying as a matter of fact - the excuses they are coming up with for this park. And to sort of add insult to injury on top of all this - the expected crowds for the discounted tickets did not materialize this weekend.

Temporary tents to sell DCA tickets to the unwashed masses went unused on Sunday morning
Temporary tents to sell DCA tickets to the unwashed masses went unused on Sunday morning

But let's go over some of the quotes given out - and then really focus on what is actually happening, as opposed to what the executives are trying to spin it into. (Hey, they must be watching Spin City on ABC after all!) If I sound a bit testy - well, look at it this way - these folks get paid way too much to be so off the mark, if you know what I mean.

The first interview I saw pop up online on Saturday morning which I quoted in italics below (bad timing guys - you should have shot for a Monday morning slot) was with Thomas Staggs, the CFO of the Disney Company, and it was done with Russ Britt over at CBS MarketWatch. (The interview covered a lot of recent disappointments for Disney, but we'll focus on the parks here for you. You may wish to read the original article first via this link, as I will only excerpt below. All links will open in new windows so you won't lose your place here.)

Staggs disputed attendance figures and exit survey results that offer a dim outlook for California Adventure, the park that opened in February at a cost of $1.4 billion. Next to its mainstay Disneyland in Anaheim, the park had few visitors during rainy winter months and never seemed to recover.

Staggs said weekday attendance at California Adventure is not as low as some say,

The pictures tell an attendance story - both were taken at 9 AM Sunday the 24th with the DCA discount admission in effect. Above is Disneyland's main entrance, below DCA's. Both parks had let in crowds already into their entry areas, and had most of their gates open for use. As you can see in the photo below there is no crowd waiting to get in. Granted, Sunday mornings are light - but look at what "light" means for Disneyland, withOUT a discount I might add.

We stand by the numbers given here on the site, both weekend and weekday. (We find it curious he only seems to address the weekday numbers.)

Staggs may of course be disputing other reports in the local media - but even the numbers we've seen for the most part compare rather accurately to ours. Since Disney doesn't release numbers "officially" (nor Indy accident tallies it seems) we'll have to let you the reader decide that one.

and adds that exit surveys are showing that it ranks "just below" its highest-rated Disneyland and Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida. Disney does not release specific numbers.

This one is a good one, "exit surveys" are not written to find out what customers really think at Disney, they usually are put together to try and justify something the company thinks will be the solution they want.  By asking a certain type of question - they want to know exactly how they need to communicate something to you that you would accept - as opposed to finding out how you really feel about what they are surveying you on.

I know, because I've taken the surveys many times - there are just no options for really giving what your opinion may really be.  Here's an e-mail from reader Sydney I got that adds some light to this "survey" process.

But the curious thing was that I was finally approached to take an exit poll on my way out of the park. When I expressed my dissatisfaction with the "value of my day" and asked why I felt that way, I looked at the checklist of possible answers.

My answer -- "broken rides," but another choice on the list amazed me: the checkbox next to "park not as good as Magic Mountain." Though this certainly falls in line with that presentation on Disney's new angle on theme parks you wrote about, it was still strange that the mouse would even want us comparing their effort to Magic Mountain -- much less feeling they'd fallen short of that "goal."

It's a sad day for many when people are evidently complaining that Disney can't keep up with the park up in Valencia.

As you can see in the note above - you can only express your opinions via the options they give you.  (Let's not dwell on Mr. Pressler's apparent obsession with Six Flags, shall we?) How can you really find out what people think this way?

An additional note here, even this reader noticed the difference in attendance between the two parks:

By the way... any idea why Disneyland proper has been so busy this week? I know school just let out but on Tuesday the line for Indiana was had a projected wait of 160 minutes (we were of course in the Fastpass line-- which took 45 minutes) and many rides ran out of Fastpasses-- I guess summer has arrived.

But, let's get back to the spin-meister, Mr. Staggs:

Still, attendance needs to be built up, Staggs said. Other new parks at Walt Disney World, such as Animal Kingdom and Disney MGM Studios, met with the same initial reception.

Whoa buddy, apples and oranges there. The Studios opened up to massive crowds (it was rushed to beat Universal's opening) - and were so overcrowded that they immediately expanded into the previously off-limits backlot area by opening it up.

This never happened at Animal Kingdom - like DCA the crowds really never came in droves, hence the cancellation of the thrill ride component they had planned for it (to steal away business from Busch Gardens.) They began to add attractions right away to the Studios - major ones, not just carnival rides. (See below about that new tidbit.) Animal Kingdom lost its "Beastly Kingdom" thrill ride area - all so they could put in more off the shelf, inexpensive kiddy rides, which is what they will be doing here by the way. (By the way, Animal Kingdom's attendance is down this year from last, surely a first for a new Disney park.)

It's interesting to note there was a lot of heated discussion internally at Disney about how they were going to price the smaller studio park before they opened it. They knew they were light on attractions - but they said the hell with it and opened at the full price the rest of the parks charged.

They got away with it for one simple reason - unlike here in Anaheim, the vast majority of visitors to Orlando are there for an extended period of time and are on park hoppers. (As opposed to the west coast's reliance on day visitors.)  If they missed something at the Studios, so what? They could just hop over to the other parks, chalk any problems to opening jitters, and still enjoy their vacation.  Pressler has not allowed park hopping here - he has fought it tooth and nail from the day they came up with the park at the retreat. He has since changed his mind on that one.

Pressler failed to understand (and Eisner apparently forgot) that difference - what you need to understand here is that the whole "California Adventure" concept is rather unfortunately based on this mistaken assumption. That's why the problems run so deep here.

Disney is lowering prices at California Adventure for local residents and letting children in free. It plans to revive its Main Street Electrical Parade to boost up sagging nighttime attendance and is adding attractions such as a replica of the game show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" that attendees can play.

"We could be happier if we didn't have to run a promotion, but we have to build up assets for this park," Staggs said. "It's certainly not a time to panic with the asset that we've got there."

The panic started opening weekend, and hasn't subsided much from what I understand. When the crowds didn't show up, Eisner got increasingly furious as the weekend continued while he was staying at the Grand Californian. Staff was instructed NOT to look him in the eye if they attended to him in the suite, and NOT to engage him in any conversation.

Since Eisner has systematically eliminated anyone who could have argued the problems that this new park was going to deal with - he literally was out of touch with the mounting problems within the park. No one can face him now as I understand. He's right - the media, and public are wrong as he sees it.

The park also is criticized for not having enough for small children to do, but Staggs said that may be more perception than reality. Disney is addressing that and other issues as it decides what attractions to add within the park as well as on surrounding acreage. But it won't have to do a major revamp of its attractions, as it had to do with Animal Kingdom

In a quote that follows the above, I can only look at and respond to with the following "denial is NOT just a river in Egypt..."

"We have not found anything major to where we have to go fix the menu," Staggs said.

I guess Mr. Staggs never visits the park - as the menu has been fixed already - let's examine what they have done since opening day:

* They scrapped the entire outdoor entertainment program they had, including the dumping of the "Lights, Camera, Chaos" show for a character show. New outdoor entertainment all over the park, featuring the Disney characters Mr. Pressler had to be cajoled into will debut this week.

* "Steps in Time" cost them millions to fix, and then they still will probably scrap it

* SuperStar Limo will be redone

* The Electrical Parade was pulled from its Disneyland return a year early to try and salvage the nighttime entertainment

* A lagoon show is being pushed for nighttime also - at a major cost since they eliminated any advance planning for it (see my previous update below)

* Most menus are being revamped and restaurants are being closed (like the Soap Bistro)

* Millionaire was rushed in - blowing Armageddon off the map

None of those are cheap I might add, and I will detail just how much more of an overhaul is on the way below (in the DCA Fixes section) - after I discuss a few quotes from your friend (and maybe not Eisner's anymore) Paul Pressler in today's Wall Street Journal story by Bruce Orwall (you will need a subscription to the site to access this link):

The most visible looming issue in Anaheim remains the new California Adventure park. The discount program for Southern Californians cuts adult admission to $33 from $43, and allows each adult to bring in free a kid aged three to nine. The program runs through Labor Day.

Disney typically doesn't offer discounts during the busy summer season, but it is eager to get Californians to try the new park. Mr. Pressler said the company decided to focus on trying to attract more locals for now, because economic circumstances have made it more difficult to attract out-of-state visitors.

Let's be honest here, there are many internal quotes, and several cast member meeting speeches where Mr. Pressler pretty much blew off the locals. He was adamant that no annual passes be issued for the park, that it be full admission for the tourist crowd, and the "California Adventure" theme was selected by him, Braverman and Eisner because they wanted to expand the visitor base to extended stay customers. They pretty much ignored the locals, despite the many pleas internally, as well as from outside observers to also cater to them.

Ironically - what IS keeping things somewhat going for DCA is that annual pass locals crowd Mr. Pressler disdained so much for so long. Although I expect once they get a year's worth, they may not renew a full two park pass. Anticipating this problem somewhat, there has been internal discussion that the single park (Disneyland only) pass will probably become history before the end of the year, if not sooner. (That's right, MAKE the customers buy the product, even if they may not really want it.)

Mr. Orwall continues:

The marketing push for California Adventure also has shifted to focus on younger kids, even though there have been some complaints that the new park doesn't offer enough for youngsters to do.

Mr. Pressler disagrees with that, but says: "Perception is reality. We recognize that we need to shore up" what the park offers the younger set. Disney is planning more attractions for that group.

Imagineer (and I use the term loosely) Barry Braverman admitted to the L.A. Times when the park opened that they were short on kids attractions.  This was known from day one of planning as a matter of fact. The big problem in this park is the overabundance of movies being passed off as attractions (which sit empty most of the time by the way) to save money, and Pressler's mall focus on high end shopping and dining. There are no rides like Pirates, Mansion, even Alice, that families can ride together in the new park. (Let's not even discuss the farm.)

And I have to add this one observation about the discount program (that seems rather tepidly received so far I might add) - this is a park that is designed for a high end, out of state tourist. The discount will pull in locals who want to save a few bucks - but this crowd will probably not be spending too much on anything in this park - as it's the wrong demographic. As I understand it from this weekend's early numbers, the slightly increased discount crowd did mean less sales in food and merchandise. (Thanks Dan Steinberg for that observation.)

Sort of reminds you of that Star Trek episode doesn't it?  The one where the guy keeps blowing up galaxies because he screwed up a timeline somewhere as he tried to fix things. Every time he thought he made a change to get things back the way they were (and get his family back, if I remember right) - his changes would eliminate some other universe in the time line.

At the end of the episode they blew up his time machine, and he started all over again. Leaving the audience wondering if he would make the same mistake again...

I won't even say anything, OK?  ;)

 

The DCA fixes

So, CFO Mr. Staggs says the menu needs no fixes (hell, the chicken wraps are already gone from the Farmer's Market man!).

Well then why is the following now underway - DCA fixes that will be more permanent than the drastic price cuts and retired parades?

Casa de Regis from inside the DCA park (above) and outside (below). Talk about a backyard shed!

Casa de Regis (Millionaire) from inside the DCA park (above) and outside (below). Talk about a backyard shed!

Casa de Regis from inside the DCA park (above) and outside (below). Talk about a backyard shed!

The Millionaire building is barreling through its tight construction schedule. The Monorail, which had to abandon it's new "Be Our Guest" priority boarding service for Hotel guests when it was forced to go back to the bad old days of bi-directional operation due to the sudden construction near the DCA beam, should be able to return to full loop service by the end of June. (After Disneyland Hotel guests began complaining in huge numbers about the long lines at the Monorail stations, a compromise was worked out amongst the contractors and Disney to get the full Monorail loop back in operation several weeks earlier than previously planned.)

Word is also coming down from very high levels is saying that plans are moving quickly on DCA's Tower Of Terror, the next big DCA attraction that has been rumored for several months now. (Never mind its something the whole family can NOT ride together - which is what is missing in this park.)

The target date for opening is now the late winter of 2004, but the concept of having real hotel guests staying in real "haunted" hotel rooms in the same facility that the attraction is housed has been shelved for now. Site preparation for Tower Of Terror will begin later this Fall.

Good news, they continue to try and better detail some bare areas in the new park - although this stuff looks awfully cheap on Avalon Cove's walls.
Good news, they continue to try and better detail some bare areas in the new park - although this stuff looks awfully cheap on Avalon Cove's walls.

Work is also moving quickly on permanent fixes to make DCA more kid friendly, with new attractions that have no height requirement. Those new kid friendly attractions (think kiddy rides here) are being targeted for the summer of 2003, just a few months after the Winnie the Pooh attraction opens at Disneyland. (Look at the past update for a clue as to where they may sprout up.) And expect Pressler to stay cheap cheap cheap here - just like the off the shelf carnival stuff he put into Animal Kingdom as a cheap fix.

Trees are dying all around the raft ride - I guess its to be expected on a major project like this that things would not always work out like they expected.
Trees are dying all around the raft ride - I guess its to be expected on a major project like this that things would not always work out like they expected.

The new Disney parking lot being constructed in the Strawberry Field will be used as overflow on peak days, since what is left of Timon will be swallowed up by the soon to commence DCA expansion. Expect a hotel and a water park to take some more room up in this area, with plans on hold right now due to the lackluster numbers DCA is getting.

Work is underway at Soaring (in DCA) on the queue (above) - they are adding shade and it appears misters. Wouldn't have all this been much cheaper if it had been done in the first place? Save a penny Mr. Pressler, spend a dollar instead...
Work is underway at Soaring (in DCA) on the queue (above) - they are adding shade and it appears misters. Wouldn't have all this been much cheaper if it had been done in the first place? Save a penny Mr. Pressler, spend a dollar instead...

By the way, the managers responsible for "Resort Transportation and Parking" are trying to create strategies to entice all incoming visitors to head to the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure first, instead of looking for the parking entrance on Harbor Blvd. that was there for Disneyland's first 45 years. Old habits die hard however, and many locals are still heading straight for the old Harbor Blvd. entrance, completely unaware that there is now a massive parking structure on the other side of the Park. (We won't even discuss the fact that the structure may apparently have been designed backwards - they keep experimenting with different parking methods since it seems Eisner's apparent fussed upon design isn't quite working.)

 

Layoffs - La Harriss speaks!

The layoffs are done for now. But in a very telling statement, (as we mentioned before) resort president Cynthia Harriss keeps referring to them as "the current phase of workforce reduction." The solid rumor is that there will be more layoffs to come later this Summer, plus some more restructuring, all hopefully out of the media spotlight like this past Spring.

As far as Park Operations go in Anaheim, the current reorganization has brought Disneyland closer in line with how the Park was run before Paul Pressler instituted huge changes in 1995 and '96. In Operations, there are more hourly Leads (Disney-speak for "foreman") and fewer salaried managers than ever before. This was how the Park was run from the 1960's until 1995, and things are quickly returning to the old ways operationally. So all those astronomical fees that were spent for the Anderson consulting by Pressler were pretty much thrown away it looks like. There will be more to come on this workforce story as the summer rolls along.

Cynthia hosted two large information sessions in the Hyperion Theater last Thursday for what is left of the salaried Cast Members, and she had the charm turned up to overdrive. What perked up many salaried ears in the audience is when she outlined the sudden price cuts for DCA admission, and talked about the Electrical Parade that starts next week at DCA.

She called those two recent announcements vital to DCA's summer, and announced that this week is "the real launch of Disney's California Adventure!"

We guess the 4 day long multi-million dollar party held back in February, with international media, flowing champagne, fabulous celebrities, and oodles of perks and free goodies for the press and invited guests was just a dress rehearsal for this summer when they cut prices and drag out a retired parade to "really" launch the new Park?

Interesting spin Cynthia. Mind joining Mr. Staggs and Mr. Pressler in that teacup?  ;)

 

Can't spend our Disney dollars when the cash registers are closed can we?

Both photos were taken at about 11:15 or so in the morning - Tropical Imports in Adventureland (above) remained closed until almost noon, Coke Corner (below) only had ONE cast member working, making for a huge line. People can't spend their money if you won't let them - aren't times a little too tough for this kind of thing?

Both photos were taken at about 11:15 or so in the morning - Tropical Imports in Adventureland (above) remained closed until almost noon, Coke Corner (below) only had ONE cast member working, making for a huge line. People can't spend their money if you won't let them - aren't times a little too tough fiscally for this kind of thing?

Both photos were taken at about 11:15 or so in the morning - Tropical Imports in Adventureland (above) remained closed until almost noon, Coke Corner (below) only had ONE cast member working, making for a huge line. People can't spend their money if you won't let them - aren't times a little too tough for this kind of thing?

 

McDonalds expands at Disneyland

It looks like they are just going to sell fries and drinks since the appliances going into the Harbor Galley makeover now are only French fry deep fryers - there are no grills or ovens for burgers.

That makes us wonder about the fate of the fry cart in Frontierland. Can Disneyland use two French fry food locations?

 

 

New around Disneyland

Tomorrowland gets something new (sheesh!) - above is the redo of the Tomorrowland Terrace stage roof / planter for the upcoming Club Buzz show. Below is the new Atlantis greeting area - which alas as nice as it is, only highlights the empty sub lagoon behind it.

Tomorrowland gets something new (sheesh!) - above is the redo of the Tomorrowland Terrace stage roof / planter for the upcoming Club Buzz show. Below is the new Atlantis greeting area - which alas as nice as it is, only highlights the empty sub lagoon behind it.

Points given for doing new stuff - but we need rides in Tomorrowland guys, not cheap fixes.

Tomorrowland gets something new (sheesh!) - above is the redo of the Tomorrowland Terrace stage roof / planter for the upcoming Club Buzz show. Below is the new Atlantis greeting area - which alas as nice as it is, only highlights the empty sub lagoon behind it.

 

Disney box offices notes

Fellow MousePlaneteer Karl Buiter offered the following e-mail to me, which I'll share with you today:

Atlantis has only done $44.3 million after ten days, including two full June weekends. The $13.2 million this weekend represents a 35% drop-off from the prior weekend - average for many films - but worse than many recent Disney animated films including Tarzan, Mulan, and Hunchback. Given the current rate of drop, it will be challenging to see Atlantis equal its $90-$100 million cost at the domestic box office. It may fall short of Emperor's New Groove final tally of $89 million. This is not good for a Disney summer animated release.

On Pearl Harbor this weekend dropped about 29%, adding $7.0 million more to its cashbox now at172 million. Pearl now faces blockbuster competition in the coming weeks before and after July 4th. Most reports are now putting this down at maybe $190 million close. Of course I would not be surprised if Disney forces the carcass out another few weeks to at least claim $200 mil. Of note, The Mummy Returns should pass $200 million this week before vanishing.

On the other hand, Shrek definitely has legs. Watching the daily's, this thing actually moves up as the week progresses, with over $2 million on a Thursday. This appears to be the evergreen film of the summer. Its sixth weekend wrapped another $11.0 mil on 3000+ screens, just $2.2 million less than sophomore Atlantis. Monday the film becomes Dreamwork's leading box, passing Saving Private Ryan, and shortly after passes Aladdin. It continues to closely track The Lion King, with a certainty to go over $250 million and likely to approach $300 mil before the summer is out.

I think Katz won.

I think so too Karl. And Sparky would be the first to tell you that too. ;)

 


I know we promised that we'd try and explain what the dismantling of the Disneyland Design Studio means for quality at Disneyland. We do not have enough distance  yet on this rather delicate subject matter - plus some new info just is coming to light.

I hope I can have this info for the next update. Thanks for understanding.


 

Now tell me folks - wasn't that a good update?  ;) Here's the Amazon button below, let us know what you think.

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6/18 Update - "If it's good enough for Six Flags..." / Meanwhile - the ad campaign changes / Waiting for the other shoe to drop / Rehab notes / Speaking of rehabs...

 

"If it's good enough for Six Flags..."

Wow. Was I stunned. I think you will be too after reading this item today.

As the problematic California Adventure (DCA) park was developed and built - I kept hearing from within the company they had purposefully turned their back on the many procedures and methods, especially within the development process, that were utilized in making a quality theme park in the past.

But I kept hearing over and over from Marty Sklar, Paul Pressler and Michael Eisner in public statements during the development and then construction of DCA that nothing had changed, that Disney quality was being maintained, they were just watching the budgets. Once the new park opened though, it became painfully apparent that "something had gone terribly wrong" - and ever since opening day the lackluster attendance numbers and increasing poor word of mouth have been proving that out.

Well, thanks to some very kind souls away from the parks - I was able to experience a presentation made by Imagineering called "The 'Off the Shelf' Decision." Apparently created for an in house discussion, it very frankly presented things in a way that basically confirmed many of the problems we had seen going on from the outside. It explains very clearly why, under current management, you will probably never see another new or innovative attraction from Disney in an American park. Period.

After hearing about this thing (which I have to paraphrase here for you) you'll clearly understand that not only did Disney save money - but they did it in a way that basically threw out everything the company used to strive for. DCA wasn't built with the word quality even in mind - it was a very conscious effort by Eisner and Pressler in particular to change the way the way they did business - and it admits to a lower quality, to what seems to be now distressing results.

The first part of the presentation presented the 1995 "company mentality." There was a list of items (problems apparently) that this presentation was going to address. Among "disappointments" listed were Disneyland Paris, Blizzard Beach and three "Super E's" (My guess is that two of them were Epcot's Test Track, and Disneyland's Rocket Rods). It asked the question "can we do an "E" ride for 70 million?"  It also talked about how they could no longer spend at traditional levels. In this presentation they stated their target figure for DCA was supposed to be "15% LOWER" than their "best" past effort, the Disney MGM Studios in Orlando. Ouch.

They were concerned (apparently) that ride sponsors were "active" (complaining?) and with Pressler's coming on the scene the client for Imagineering was now the parks - not Eisner. It also noted that they would no longer develop ideas, unless a business plan and profit and loss were done first.

The next part of the presentation, "the 1996 key to a cheaper park" offered solutions to the listed problems. Instead of developing an idea fully (the facility, theme and ride) they would only be allowed now to pick two of those items. The company was to "capitalize" on an "improving ride industry."

Disney's priorities were to take known rides, and theme them with paint and lights. The idea being to "take advantage" of attractions developed by others. Even the words "If it's good enough for Six Flags..." appear.  This is a first - the company actually admitting that quality was on a back burner. Man, this was painful, it confirmed what we'd been seeing in this new park - that this was a Six Flags type of money saving effort here.

The presentation then went on to how the new park could be assembled for less than Disney normally used to do it for. Here they are very clear that many of the decisions presented to the public as "creative ones" were clearly done for budget reasons. In other words, traditional Disney quality was to be blown off. They then list the following ideas to save money: No berm around DCA, with visual intrusions allowed, which means seeing all the buildings around the park. They note each ride is designed for only one effect - but major E tickets with "elaborate facilities, shows and rides" will be avoided to do the "story" instead. They talk about keeping the Monorail track untouched (they apparently were still complaining about how much it cost to reroute the track around the Indy show building.)

The reason the new park looks so cheap in many areas, is because they decided that settings are "show set like," not immersive, with "no replications of period themed architecture." Facade detailing is limited to entries and covering the front of the building - so that only a portion of the job needs to be done. (Superstar Limo is a perfect example of this.) The also talk about "direct lifts" such as the Muppets.

One of the areas I have constantly complained about was the Paradise Pier carnival area - and they do admit in this presentation that the "Surf City" (probably the working name for this area) rides are "off the shelf" except for some detailing. This pretty much blows out of the water any hype they have given the press about wanting to "re-create" a seaside carnival.  They go on to detail for the whole park that "no new ride systems to be invented" and they will make only "provisions" for a future parade or water show. Yes, they even discuss that they will not upgrade or tie into the other park's systems.

Another section goes on to discuss a "Backstage Philosophy." They only want to worry about what the visitor sees, and anything they can't see will be very basic. In what to me is a killer statement - they say that "First cost" [is to be] "considered before life cycle savings." In short, they admit that they will NOT spend up front to save money later on - hence the huge costs they are now dealing with to try and put in a lagoon show for example - costs that could have been considerably reduced if they had only spent a little more during initial construction to provide the basic infrastructure needed.

They also discuss not needing a central energy plant - since "Anaheim will supply power at 480V." This is one cutback I am sure they now understand in the power crisis we are dealing with was very wrong. Also, remember when I complained they didn't even install a winch for the Screamin coaster should it get stuck somewhere outside a normal stopping area? (Which means they have to hire a crane at great expense to pull the stuck cars out of the section?) Well apparently it's because "Off-the shelf" Paradise Pier attractions are to "have no enhanced capacity, ride control, or maintenance." Cheap, cheap, cheap. No wonder the Screamin coaster is constantly down.

How fiscally responsible is that folks? How should a stockholder feel knowing Disney purposely planned things to cost the company more money on down the line?  This is poor management on the part of the Eisner's and Pressler's of the world don't you think?

Next up in the presentation came the subject of "Embracing the Industry, their way." This apparently listed some ways the outside ride industry did business.  I won't detail these here, since I wasn't very clear what was meant - but I can detail the next area of this section, where they list the experiences with the industry. Under the word "Good" the list the following reasons: - that they were able to "competitively bid" these cookie cutter rides to multiple companies - they paid early lump sums locking in budgets - most rides were ready and in storage before they were needed and installs were taken care of by the general contractors in the park with "good results." They also list as "good" fewer coordination problems, that the "product was of excellent quality" (it's a chain bucket ride for goodness sakes, you don't use the word "quality" there, if you know what I mean).

Also they felt this made for a "lower rate of change" as opposed to other contracts, they would have no claims, and that risks for any problems (with the Golden Zephyr listed) would be dealt with by the vendor. In other words, if the ride doesn't work (like, oh, say Imagineering's Rocket Rods) they don't get stuck with the costs. They also claim that Imagineering would have an "improved relationship" with the attractions industry.

Now as with all corporate- speak documents made by way too bloated companies nowadays, they could not bring themselves to use the word "bad" for the next section, instead the following list is of "lessons they learned."  Apparently a Disneyland management change ruined some previous buy ins, and the quality of ride documentation varied too much from all the vendors (formats did not match and had no common standard - this is standard in industries that have little government oversight guys).

They also feel that they shouldn't try to buy things from vendors they don’t normally sell (like the Orange Stinger bee seats), and that the outside companies can hold the parks hostage for spare parts and ride fixes or improvements (meaning they may have to "reverse engineer" some parts to get them from various sources.  They wanted to also avoid buying "additional margin" (back up parts?) and get them before a need arose. And they also said they wanted to do this (and this is not clear to me here) to "support ride legislation." Your guess is a good as mine here on this last one.

In closing it asked the question we all wondered about "Would Disney Do it Again?" and in very big type size the (shudder) word was "YES" as "the pros far out weigh the cons." BUT... (You just knew there was one in this presentation didn't you?) the following solutions were listed with emphasis:

"Set documentation standards" - if the vendors can't do it, "budget for it and do it in-house." Make sure they lock down the relationship with outside ride companies, such as buying spare parts up front. Make sure ride sponsors sign up front (before a ride is committed to - they must be referring to GM backing out of doing the Rocket Rods at Disneyland) and make sure they have a "cross discipline review of vendor facility inputs." (The last presentation point made here was a "paint story" - but that I didn't find any info on to be able to explain it to you.)

So basically in a nutshell you can see they didn't really care about the customer when they built DCA.

No wonder there are so many problems.

 

Meanwhile - the ad campaign changes

Looks like as of last week that they may have temporarily shelved the "Are You Mouse Enough?" kids campaign for DCA - in favor of a new Disneyland spot which shows Goofy cavorting around all the familiar Disneyland attractions. (They have shot a new Electrical Parade spot for DCA, but it won't run until just before July 4th.)

Problem with the new ad? There's no new attraction to push! Unlike Universal (which has three new things this summer) and LegoLand (with their new coaster and a locals discount) Disneyland only has the same old ever so static park to plug. So give them points for realizing the cash cow is Disneyland, and to blow off trying to increase DCA's numbers for now, but take those points away again for not even providing an Atlantis tie in.

The Library in the Atlantis Experience
The Library in the Atlantis Experience

By the way I stopped by the El Capitan Theater this past weekend - to see Atlantis and the "Atlantis experience" next door.  I agreed with Sue Kruse, the movie is certainly "been there, done that." (Like Dinosaur, I'll skip repeat viewings and avoid the DVD. It will do OK business, but Disney's been dethroned, the summer belongs to Shrek.) What really got me was the next door thing though - as I walked through it and saw all the people having fun with the LaserTag (and also the quality of the displays and aquariums) - all I could ask myself is why wasn't this also set up inside the now deserted CircleVision / Rocket Rods building in Tomorrowland?

That sure would have been something NEW to put into that commercial with Goofy, right?  A reason to visit the park again for the less frequent visitors?  But - hey - that's kind of TOO obvious, right?

It's a sad day when the synergy thing is better done by Universal (Mummy, Shrek) than Disney isn't it?

 

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

The big news on the upcoming layoffs and restructuring is that there is no news yet! It was supposed to happen last Thursday and Friday, but it was postponed at the very last minute. Now the word is that it will happen for Park Operations divisions this Tuesday and Wednesday. Rumor had bigger cuts being demanded from Burbank the middle of last week, and Cynthia had to ask her Vice Presidents to get the layoff numbers for their divisions a bit higher. This is probably due to the less than stellar numbers Pearl Harbor pulled in, and the disappointing performance seen with DCA and Animal Kingdom, among a general parks slowdown.

As a result, salaried Cast Members remain in a bizarre employment limbo, and the gossip around the water coolers is at a fever pitch. It's all anyone can talk about really, and many of the hourly Cast Members on the front lines in the Parks are consumed with the gossip and worries as well. So far, it has been a gloomy summer for those working at the Disneyland Resort.

 

Rehab notes

The popular "Be Our Guest" priority Monorail boarding for Disneyland Resort Hotel guests has been suspended until the Monorail can return to round trip operation on the beamway. Currently, the Monorail is having to operate bi-directionally due to the sudden and unexpected construction of the Millionaire show building directly adjacent to the Monorail beam. Expect the Monorail to return to round trips, and the Be Our Guest program to begin again, in late July.

The other item of note is that when the Matterhorn returns from Rehab, it will have a new height requirement for the first time in it's history. You will now need to be 35 inches to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds, instead of just being "3 years old". The same day that the Matterhorn returns from rehab, Gadget's Go Coaster will also adopt the same 35 inch height requirement.

 

Speaking of rehabs...

The Pirates rehab which caused all sorts of problems (detailed in the last few updates), apparently now is making for even worse ones... I'll share the following with you from a kind source:

Lately there have been having a lot of boats take in water resulting in cast members tagging quite a few of them (the tags mean that the boats should not be loaded and should be taken off the main flume).

Don't know if this is related to the "Splash Pirates" problem, but most folks don't believe the flooding was this bad before the recent rehab. Usually only about an inch of water (at the most) collects in the first couple rows of the boats. This week though there were two boats with an unusual volume of water in all rows.

As the Cast Members who worked the unload positions can attest, the water level inside the boats gradually increased every time the boats were sent out, so that by closing time the other night the water in the first row of one of the boats was half a foot deep.

At about 11:55, this boat (empty, of course, except for the water) came off the lift at the end of the ride and when it splashed down into the horseshoe, the right side of the bow sunk underwater, but the boat continued to be propelled by the flume pumps. When the boat arrived at the Approach belt before the loading dock, it deflumed, causing the ride to go 101 and be evacuated. Apparently, the cause of the flooding was a hole in the floor of the boat about three inches in diameter.

CMs who have been there for close to a decade, had never seen a boat sink on Pirates. This incident was so bizarre that all sorts of management (above and beyond the normal group during a breakdown) came to the dock-- Theme Park One, Facilities One, Attractions One, etc. Until now, whenever they took a boat off the normal flume and placed it in boat storage due to flooding, Facilities just pumped the water out instead of repairing it.

Hopefully this incident will bring attention to the problem of boat flooding and reparative action will be taken.

Depressing isn't it? This reminds me of a story I heard not too long ago, but didn't put into the update until this item brought it to mind:

Seems that a year or two ago, Disneyland hosted a group of employees from Tokyo Disneyland - these maintenance types were excited they would get to visit "the park Walt walked in" and were literally treating their visit as a trip to Mecca. The excitement was palpable - they discussed how hard they worked at Tokyo Disneyland to keep the attractions sparkling fresh - and how the Oriental Land Company (who runs the show there) was ever so strict as to their quality standards. Long talks were held before they set foot in Disneyland - they had discussed how they diligently worked on maintaining the Pirates boats for example - and their rehab schedule which would keep everything in tip top shape. They were very excited about finally coming to the original Disneyland, and seeing how the mother park did things - they were sure Disneyland was maintained at levels even higher than theirs.

You probably already know where this is going, right?

Well, let's just avoid repeating the obvious here - the group from Japan was DEEPLY disappointed at what they found here. In particular they were distressed about Pirates and the Haunted Mansion. As they took rides through the attractions, then got backstage visits, they would audibly gasp and animatedly express to each other how badly things were being let go. In short they were shocked, and one wrote me later using words such as "deeply disturbed" about what they saw here.  They wondered how the company felt "no shame" in how the quality had so obviously slipped. The writer also said they had read many of the updates here before their visit, and thought we were trying to hold Disneyland to much higher standards than was humanly possible - but that their own visit convinced them our reporting here was accurate as to the many problems Paul Pressler has introduced to the parks.

It's a shame isn't it?  That the Japanese parks are better maintained and more updated than ours? Not to mention pulling in record crowds. 

Hmmm, maybe Pressler can outsource the running of the American parks to Oriental Land?  They seem to be able to add new attractions of very high quality on a regular basis, and experience record attendance (in a difficult Japanese economy to boot!). Bet Tokyo DisneySeas will be a big hit, unlike our mess here, DCA.

 

Price increase

It wouldn't be summer without them! Sadly this one round finally stopped yours truly from buying something on a regular basis. Popcorn at Disneyland jumped up 25 cents to 2.75 a box, but I couldn't find out if this also applied to DCA - as their signs (as of last week) remained unchanged.

I love the popcorn at the park, but this was the last straw for me Mr. Eisner. I'll avoid this treat from now on.  Maybe if enough customers also felt the same way a point could be made?  We'll see.  [To be fair, Disney was trying to match price levels that Knott's and Universal currently have.]

 

Next time in the update - we'll try and explain what the dismantling of the Disneyland Design Studio means for quality at Disneyland. We may have enough distance by then on this rather delicate subject matter.

 

Now tell me folks - wasn't that a good update?  ;) Here's the Amazon button below, let us know what you think.

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6/11 Update - Back from Vacation / Fall Down / Bears Gone After Labor Day / Fantasmic Reprieve - Electrical Parade update / Buzz Off (Ride) - Show's On - Carnival Crap / Atlantis Characters / Mr. Lincoln Cutbacks (of course) - More Disneyland News / DCA: More Ads - Same Attendance / House of Regis - other shots / Grads Just Say No To DCA / Take My Map - Please! / Readers speak out about DCA / A sad story

 

Back from Vacation

Gianna ever so politely asked:

Hello, I find your comments very interesting and you are the main reason I read Mouse Planet. I have noticed that you have not written anything since May 22 and I miss your insights. I hope every thing is ok and am hoping to hear your opinions again soon. Again, thanks for your Disneyland updates and Ask Al.

Jeff almost pleaded:

Ok Al, you got us spoiled. Last week (May 28-June1) no update. And so far this week no update (D-I-G). What's up?? It seems the site has branched quite a bit, and Disneyland gets put to the side sometimes. What's with all the Paris stuff lately?? I think that all this Disneyland Paris stuff is only interesting to a very select few. We need that update AT LEAST once a week AL, LOL. You've done such a good job that we hold you up to such high expectations now. Well, kinda like we hold everything else (Calif Adven, for one) to Disneyland.

Thomas seems downright impatient and simply writes:

Will there be Disneyland updates any time soon. Seems like this week there were none.

Ok, I took a vacation - and judging from all your e-mails, it turns out there may be more than a few readers out there who actually go through this whole column. ;)

Naturally some stuff has been backlogged - so we've got a big update for you today. But before I begin, there are two things I quickly want to do...

First is a BIG thank you to all the MousePlanet staff / family who all worked so very hard to give me time off these past two weeks. Everyone chipped in, we got to do two very well received theme weeks, and the combined effort allowed us to continue to present our daily mix of new material so many of you look forward to each day here on the site.

I'd in particular like to thank Brian Bennett, who actually came up with the idea on how to make this all work so well, and Pat Edaburn - who worked very hard with Ian Parkinson on our spectacular Paris week. Special mentions also go to both Adrienne & Tony Phoenix, Kevin & Adrienne Krock and Sue Kruse for jumping in with some special coverage during the week - and it wouldn't have happened so smoothly without the behind- the- scenes work of Lani Teshima and Alex Stroup who really worked on making all the materials come together. There are also a few others - who know who they are - who also chimed in with lots of help at last minute.

Thank you to all for helping give me my first break from this gig in almost two years. :)

Second we are starting something today that actually is due in no small part to many requests from the readers.

There had always been a few of you each week who email us asking if you could help contribute financially to the site in some way, and once I ran a note in an Ask Al™ on that same subject matter, it seemed to open a small floodgate of similar requests.

Your very kind e-mails made us wonder if maybe we should look at this idea again, and set up something so you can make contributions to the site. What intrigued us all after a few discussions about it was that if this does succeed, it can allow us to speed up new areas and services for MousePlanet, and push forward some updating for a few of the other content areas.

As a result, we've chosen the Amazon Honor System to allow this for several reasons - many of you already probably have accounts with the company - Amazon allows for refunds should you change your mind after making a payment - and most important of all - they allow for a choice of payment amount which you can determine.

What we would suggest you do (if you would like to participate) is to consider "paying your way" as you use the site. If, for example, you read this update page on a regular basis - click on the icon below and give a dollar or two (or heck five!) after you read through it. (And likewise throughout the site.)

The idea behind asking this is that if we can even out the payments - and allow for some kind of regular flow each update - it may enable us to add something new to the site that we would normally have to wait an additional period of time with our current business model.

Of course, if you'd rather just pay a larger sum, once a month (five to ten dollars), or every year (up to fifty is the maximum they allow) - that works too. The basic idea is to try to keep a regular flow going from you to us (as you deem best) - in the same way we all work on this site to keep a flow of new material going back out to you. Think subscription type payments here, but with us allowing YOU to call the shots payment- wise, without us blocking you from anything to collect a fee in advance.

Ask yourself how do we compare with things you already pay to read, such as your daily newspaper, or a magazine subscription. Is that a size fee that works for you?  If we saved you some money or hassle planning a visit to a park - was that worth something to you? Did you appreciate knowing in advance (many times way before the regular media reports it) what is going on at the parks? If the answers are yes to those or other questions you may ask yourself about the site - then let us know how much you appreciate it via Amazon.

We honestly don't know how well this will work - and I guess myself that it really comes down to that one word "Honor." It's really up to you to make the choice to participate and how much you want to pay.

In advance we all thank you for looking into this, and your participation. If this works well enough (and the flow stabilizes as you use the site), it may very well be that we can all look forward to some exciting new things around here on a much accelerated basis. :)

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So, are you ready for that (what seems to be) long overdue update now? I've taken the liberty to sprinkle a few of your many e-mails "Asking Al™" a few questions too - so make sure that cup of coffee is full and that muffin is already warm on your desktop before you start this special "back from vacation" expanded edition of the DIG update...

 

Fall Down

Lee asks:

I was wondering if you have heard anything new about the Haunted Mansion makeover into Nightmare this fall? My partner and I are avid Disney fans and doing all 4 parks this year (DCA opening in February, Walt Disney World in May, Paris in July, Tokyo and the new park opening in September) and would seriously come back for New Year if it happened? I just don't seem to have seen anything about it for a while.

Jim also asks:

I've been a regular MousePlanet / DIG reader for a long time now (over 2 years?). I enjoy and value the site's coverage and all the inside information you provide to your readers.

In your 4-30 update, you noted that the Haunted Mansion will close "on Labor Day" for refurbishment and converting to the "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme. In the same update, you noted that Splash Mountain will close at (exactly) the same time for a major 10-week refurbishment.

I already have vacation plans (Disney Club reservations) to arrive September 1 (Saturday) and depart September 7 (Friday). Since Labor Day is on Sept. 3 (Monday), I would have Saturday evening (joy, joy) and Sunday to visit the two above- mentioned attractions before they "go down". As far as you know, is this still the schedule and is it pretty firm? Also, it seems strange that Disneyland would close these two popular attractions on Labor Day itself --- perhaps your update means Labor Day will be the *last* day they're open (??).

Frankly, if there is any reasonable likelihood that these two attractions (both among my top favorites!) will not be open at all during the period of my visit, I will be strongly inclined to cancel the trip and instead just schedule one for WDW for later in the year, and visit the DL Resort after another year or two. I live some 2500 miles from Disneyland and don't get to visit often; my last visit there was in September, 1998. Therefore, any further confirmation / clarification will be very gratefully appreciated!

It is going to be very quiet around the Rivers of America this September. Why you ask? First (to answer the questions above) because the Haunted Mansion will close for it's one month transformation into the Nightmare Before Christmas version.

In addition, Splash Mountain will also close the day after Labor Day Jim for a ten week long refurbishment to install station gates and revamp the show scenes inside the ride (not to mention fix some major leaks that have sprung up). Splash Mountain desperately needs this refurbishment, as the animatronic animals have become noticeably mangy looking, the show scenes and paintjobs look dark and dingy, and many effects and animatronics are in poor working condition.

It's just a shame that the Splash Mountain rehab was scheduled and budgeted to occur in September, because at the same time, the Country Bear Playhouse closes to begin its eighteen month transformation into Winnie The Pooh.

And to top it off for Disneyland's western half, Fantasmic! will not be playing during Autumn weekends this year.

The story continues below...

 

Bears Gone After Labor Day

Meetings continue to proceed for Winnie the Pooh with a Spring, 2003 opening for the new ride, already mentioned in April on this site, becoming quite firm. So if the Bear show is dear to you, do yourself a favor and visit it on your next trip to Disneyland up to Labor Day. It will be your last chance to see the attraction here in California, as there are currently no plans to close the single theater version of the attraction at Walt Disney World (WDW). (The folksy Country Bear Jamboree concept has always played much better to the Southeastern and Midwestern demographic that makes up a big chunk of WDW's visitors, and the lone WDW theater still packs 'em in 30 years later.)

Basically, despite the hand- wringing on line elsewhere, if there is any "synergy" to be had with the upcoming Country Bear Jamboree movie, it will be made pretty much only in Florida. When Disneyland's Country Bear Playhouse closes, a charming fifteen minute long Audio- Animatronic show will be replaced by a three minute long dark ride past predictable sets featuring fiberglass Winnie the Pooh figures.

In the past few weeks Imagineers have been visiting the attraction to document the "salvageable items" in the building, and they have been very forthcoming with the CM's about Labor Day being the last day. From the scuttlebutt I've had, I get the impression that more than a few Imagineers are disgruntled that Disneyland isn't getting the technologically advanced Tokyo Pooh, but is instead getting a Florida Pooh 2.0 "lite."

The only change from past updates here (other than some wishy- washy- ness about final approvals) is that the heavy makeover for the Hungry Bear Restaurant seems to have been scaled back, and the "Chuck E. Cheese" concept of having the Bear Band play to diners seems to be on the back burner now. It's also interesting that since Florida doesn't currently use the Vacation Hoedown show which played at Disneyland, this will likely be the last time that version of the attraction is able to be seen. As you may know, the Christmas Show still plays in Florida.

As it now stands, by 2003, there may not be any evidence that the Country Bear Jamboree ever existed at Disneyland. And forget about it at DCA too... it's money they'd rather spend on something major...

 

Fantasmic Reprieve - Electrical Parade update

Fantasmic! has been solidly budgeted to continue running through 2002, and even given a tentative budget through September, 2003. The show will close this Labor Day for a refurbishment, but it will return the weekend before Thanksgiving. As reported here before, this expensive show has been on shaky ground recently, but it now seems as though it will be a key entertainment piece at Disneyland for the next several years as most of the development funds (as expected) go to producing a new night parade and lagoon show for California Adventure (DCA), after the Electrical Parade does its duty of (hopefully) boosting this Summer's attendance there.

Also, the new Fantasmic! desert seating area on the western shore of the Rivers of America, mentioned earlier in the Spring here, finally opened on Memorial Day weekend. After delaying the debut of this new extra cost service for several weeks due to logistical issues, seats were sold to a modest amount of visitors interested in watching Fantasmic! in a less hectic setting.

Approximately 40 people purchased seats for the 9:00 pm show on Saturday, and about a dozen were seated there for the 10:30 pm show. The goal was to sell up to 100 seats per show. The price of 40 dollars per person (paid at City Hall) allows a first come, first served seat, a desert box full of sweet treats, and unlimited fresh coffee and hot chocolate.

If they can sell out all 100 seats per show during the busy summer months, this seating will remain - so far though, the weekends following Memorial Day have not been encouraging. Since they probably won't re-examine the pricing - this offering may be only available in Yesterland much sooner than anyone may have thought.

Before I forget, the rumors are the Electrical Parade's DCA visit will only be for one year - whereupon it will return to Disneyland. You know, having this information in advance could quite possibly influence you as a visitor - do you really want to see the Electrical Parade in a park that quite frankly it will most probably not really work well in? Or do you hold off until it is properly presented at Disneyland, where it was designed for?

I'd be willing to bet that most visitors would wait. (I know if I was in the same position, that's what I would do.) And you know, by delaying your visit - you could probably send a very clear message to the Walt Disney Company that maybe you think as a consumer that the wrong person is in charge of the parks now. ;)  Hmmm, smells like a campaign to me...

Sigh, it's too bad we won't get a copy of Tokyo's new, and word is, rather dazzling, 25 million dollar completely all new Electrical Parade. Paul Pressler doesn't think you'll care or notice the difference if the old one is drug back out again. ;)

And again here, before I forget, it's official, the DCA Eureka Parade will cut out one of it's afternoon performances once the Electrical Parade starts. Beginning July 4th, the Eureka Parade will run once in the afternoon, and then the Electrical Parade will run twice each evening. Commercials for the Electrical Parade have also been filmed.

 

Buzz Off (Ride) - Show's On - Carnival Crap

Buzz Lightyear's self propelled "shoot 'em up" attraction (which would replace the Rocket Rods) was officially canned a few weeks ago. The capital requests and budget plans were shelved, and the future of the Rocket Rods track and the CircleVision building is again very up in the air now. As you've read above, they have committed to Pooh, but Buzz is apparently not going to be the Tomorrowland savior that the suits in the Team Disney Anaheim building (TDA) thought he could be earlier in the Spring.

So what does Merchandising do to try and get the shop that was at the Rods exit back into sales numbers? I will make you sorry you asked, here is the, quite frankly, disgusting photo:

42nd street attire...
42nd street attire...

Yep, it's that Paradise Pier carnival pimp crap - merchandised in all its tacky glory in Tomorrowland. And you wonder why Paul Pressler's stone out in the esplanade gets so defaced...

 

Atlantis Characters

Another depressing legacy of how Pressler has really botched the Tomorrowland area of Disneyland becomes painfully apparent when the Atlantis costumed characters make their appearance next to the former Sub Lagoon in Tomorrowland.

With an empty lagoon as a backdrop - it's pitiful (to say the least) to see the characters at work (below).

Characters in search of a Submarine... Characters in search of a Submarine... Characters in search of a Submarine...
Characters in search of a Submarine...

By the way, the new Atlantis windows have gone into the Emporium on Main Street - and as nice as they are (view them at night, the daylight is brutal on them) they manage to do something no good storyteller should do with a movie most people haven't seen yet - they give away a key plot point.

We'll have a feature up later this week from our Merchandise Maven Adrienne Vincent Phoenix about them with photos of course. (And we promise not to give away that key plot point like Disney did, OK?)

 

Mr. Lincoln Cutbacks (of course) - Other Disneyland News

The sound of sucking you hear across the esplanade from Disneyland is turning into deafening roar - due to the increasing amounts of funds being shoveled over there to fix all those California Adventure problems everyone but Paul Pressler and Barry Braverman (not to mention their boss Michael Eisner) apparently were utterly blind to.

The sucking of funds out of Disneyland has already hurt projects like Pooh and Buzz, and now the new Mr. Lincoln show has had some effects cut from the budget. The Gettysburg "battlefield" concept has been shelved, and the old Grecian column set has remained. However, the set has received a new mottled gray paintjob, and has oddly had some fake trees installed along the edges of the proscenium.

The 3-D audio concept has been saved from the budget cutting, but many of the more elaborate ideas and show effects were scrapped at the last minute. Also you will find an Opera House lobby that looks almost exactly the same. Even the old carpeting is being salvaged. (Walt's "Working Office" is gone to Orlando, but his "Formal Office" remains.)

Other news: The Main St. Cinema redo has also been scrapped it seems.

Trees instantly disappear!
Trees instantly disappear!

Thanks to the recent tree accident, some of the trees around the Hub (photo above) have been replaced or simply taken out, several Adventureland trees are going next.

The Tiki Room also continues its slow improvement, with more roof thatching added and some lanai lighting fixed recently. Pity the attraction closes before it gets dark this time of year.

They finished painting the hill above Mickey's house in Toontown, but seemed to have stopped there (below)...


The paint stopped there?

...rumor had it they wanted to spiff up all of the area before re-opening Roger Rabbit. Is it sad it took something like Roger's accident to get them to paint?

The new sponsors and exhibits at Innoventions mentioned in an earlier Update, sorely needed at this quickly aging attraction, are now scheduled to open in time for the busy 4th of July weekend. The first week in July will be a big one for the Disneyland Resort, as the awkwardly named Disney's Electrical Parade finally opens at DCA to hopefully save the Park from becoming the 21st century version of the word "Edsel".

In addition, the new Mr. Lincoln show (as mentioned above) will open officially in the Main Street Opera House. And, with a little luck, both the Matterhorn and Roger Rabbit will be able to reopen in time for the 4th. Roger Rabbit has a much better chance of opening for the big Independence Day weekend, as retraining CM's will begin soon, and soft openings could happen at the end of June.

As fellow MousePlaneteer David Koenig detailed before in his column, the Roger Rabbit vehicles have been changed, and now sport closing side doors, higher seatbacks, and sensitive side skirting that can bring the entire attraction to an immediate stop if they come in contact with an object.

The Matterhorn continues on with it's major construction project to provide better evacuation and safety routes, and it will need a lot of luck to make it's June 30th re-opening deadline.

Also expect to be hearing about the layoffs and reorganization that is coming up this Thursday and Friday.

 

With more info on Disneyland reader Chris writes:

Al, I recently visited Disneyland on Friday May 25th and have some information about Space Mountain and Pirates.

First the good news is about Space Mountain. The music was actually working, can you believe it? The red light on the back of the first car was a nice bright red on each train. So at least for the time being our music is back to complete the Space Mountain experience. Let's hope they keep it this way!

Pirates seems to be having it's share of problems. The ride was down a couple of times on Friday afternoon and something about the ride just seems off. The boats stack up at the waterfalls and slam into each other in these locations. Also the back seat in the boat we were in was soaked. To top it all off when we returned to the loading dock the CM at the loading spot was telling the next group of people "Don't worry, this is a water ride you will get wet" So I guess instead of fixing whatever they broke during the rehab they are just telling people they might get wet.

It's funny I've been going to Disneyland for years, I never ever remember getting wet on Pirates. Maybe they can put cameras at the bottom of the waterfalls to capture the look of surprise on people's faces when they get wet and increase that revenue!! Uh oh, another idea like that and Paul Pressler might try to recruit me.

I'm sure Paul will be calling me for your e-mail address the minute he reads this! ;)

 

And reader Michael asks:

We will be visiting Disneyland in June and we have the 'Magic Feature Voucher' which includes only one of the following items.

1. Magic Mourning Breakfast

2. Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour

3. Welcome to Disneyland Tour

Have you heard any good or bad news on these features? Which one would you choose? Does the 'Welcome to Disneyland Tour' include any rides?

Let's take your questions a few at a time:

Have you heard any good or bad news on these features? Which one would you choose?

The tours are fun - in my humble opinion they are more of value than the breakfast you would get. Trust me - your typo (Mourning instead of Morning), pretty well describes the food there. ;)

Does the 'Welcome to Disneyland Tour' include any rides?

It does, but you will have to wait in line with everyone else. If this is your first visit, the Welcome tour should be the one you take. If you've already been to the park, then the Walk tour would be your choice.

By the way, make sure you ask for cast member Jason on the Walk tour, if he's available. He does a mean tour I understand. ;)

 

More Ads - Same Attendance

Overheard in DCA from two roughly ten year old kids walking near Paradise Pier:

This place is pretty, but there isn't anything to do!

And reader Alan writes:

Al, It looks like the Disney's California Adventure numbers are up. I went Sunday and there was a lot people there at night, not like in the past when the park was a ghost town. What info do you have about the number of people in the park?

Even with all that sucking going on Alan - and an ad campaign that is beginning to rival that of what some auto manufacturers put forth - DCA attendance is still in the doldrums, and hovering in the same range of 55% to 40% of its original estimates of 35,000 a day.

Memorial Day weekend was busy for both Parks, but not nearly as busy as had originally been planned. Disneyland was just a bit below estimates on Saturday, while DCA continued its months old trend of being approximately 55% below its original target attendance. Sunday, the biggest day of the 3 day weekend, was the busiest day by far for both Parks.

Sunday afternoon, the Standby lines at DCA were lengthy, but the 10:00 pm early closing time imposed a few weeks ago was a wise move because this Park still empties out quickly in the evening hours. Despite the crowds, imagine if DCA had actually had the extra 40% of attendance that had originally been projected earlier in the year? If the locals do show up at DCA this summer to see the Electrical Parade, it's going to be very, very crowded in there folks.

Even the weekends after Memorial Day, with more and more schools letting out, they really haven't been able to see even a small jump in attendance from the low post-Easter levels. The inescapable "Are You Mouse Enough?" ad campaign that has blanketed Southern California (among other western markets) has yet to deliver any sort of measurable increase in DCA attendance except for a Sunday bump, which may be mostly attributable to Annual Passholders.

(Sundays have quickly become the busiest days of the week for DCA, at least numbers- wise, since so many AP's visit on Sunday and spend at least a few hours at both Parks. That means each Park gets one official spin counted on the turnstile from each Dual Park AP holder, which gives DCA the bump. The sickening feeling is that the Resort simply is not attracting any increase in locals. And locals can drive attendance.)

From a kind soul "in the know:"

It kills me when folks on message boards say "Well, it will take time to build word of mouth and awareness for the new Park amongst locals." That's BS Al. Downtown Disney is over capacity every weekend, and it even goes like gangbusters on weekdays. It quickly became an Orange County hotspot amongst locals from several demographics, and it's the happening place that everyone is talking about and everyone knows about now, just a few months after opening.

But DCA just won't catch on, even with all the extra ads. I've noticed Downtown Disney ads have become very sparse, as DCA gets all the marketing attention now. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that all the Downtown ad money was poured into DCA once it was obvious that Downtown was a runaway success. The "awareness" and "word of mouth lag time" excuse for DCA just doesn't fly with me. Does it you?

As a result of these mounting problems, DCA will be receiving several new character based shows and entertainment locations by the end of June. In a panicked response to the awful feedback from DCA visitors with small children (and how many customers at Disney Parks don't have kids? Don't ask Paul Pressler, he doesn't know!), the Entertainment Department has been drafted to provide some very quick fixes to the DCA entertainment roster.

But forget about all the "hip and edgy" Entertainment stuff DCA rolled out with in February, which was touted heavily to the press as the "new generation of Disney entertainment". These new DCA shows will showcase well known Disney Characters, (in direct turnabout from Pressler's first demands) and be aimed at the preschool, kindergarten and grade school set.

Look for a "Beach Blanket Goofy" show June 28th in the Hollywood Backlot area on the former "Lights, Camera, Chaos" stage (which may tie into a Goofy redo of the now deserted SuperStar Limo ride - which has seen declining attendance as apparent word of mouth spreads). Character shows may also pop up on Paradise Pier, and in the Bountiful Valley Farm area.

Also expect to see a noticeable increase in walkaround Characters at DCA, and as a budget result subsequently fewer walkaround Characters at Disneyland.

Despite a last minute slapped together map / sticker / button promotion, the somewhat changed visitor mix (due to the ads they are now running) has many parents still howling at DCA's Guest Relations Lobby about the dearth of child activities and family friendly attractions. The Guest Relations CM's I talked with are very wary of using the sticker giveaways as an example of children's activities when disgruntled parents come in asking for refunds. Comp tickets continue to be given out by the hundreds at DCA's Guest Relations Lobby, stickers or no stickers.

By bringing in an army of Disney Characters (which can be done quickly and cheaply), it's hoped that the complaints will ease up just a bit. At least DCA will have the appearance of being a family friendly Park if Chip and Dale are cavorting around in front of all the rides with height restrictions.

So tell me - isn't it kind of pointless to focus on an attraction that will exclude kids, like, oh - um Tower of Terror? They did a balloon test for it again it seems. And they also cancelled the Ursula "octopus" type of spinner they had planned for Paradise Pier - the money is being sucked into something more crowd pulling.

 

House of Regis - other shots & DCA info

Below (because you all asked) is a more recent photo of the Millionaire construction site...

Casa de Regis
Casa de Regis

...as you can see they've upgraded the building from the temporary tent they had originally planned. Don't think it's too permanent though - the building will also be able to house any other show inside besides Millionaire. I guess the declining ratings may be a factor in that.

The other photo below shows apparent plumbing or wiring problems near Grizzly Peak's raft ride's entrance...

Holy bear
Holy bear

Also the Award Wieners hot dog stand is being rehabbed to fix the chrome counters they put in burning customer's hands when they ordered food - due to the hot sun hitting them all day.

 

Grads Just Say No To DCA

The suits at TDA have had a very hard time selling the concept of Grad Nite "Blast Off" parties in Paradise Pier. Blast Off used to be held in Tomorrowland, and for an extra fee schools could start the Grad Nite festivities several hours early by staying in Tomorrowland from 9:30 pm to 12 Midnight, when they were released into the Park to enjoy the rest of Grad Nite.

The Tomorrowland Blast Off's offered all the Tomorrowland attractions, except the Monorail and Innoventions, with burgers and Cokes available at Tomorrowland Terrace, and a live DJ and dancing (with Space Age go-go girls even) on the Terrace dancefloor.

This year, the Blast Off location was moved to Paradise Pier, with all the Paradise Pier carnival rides except the unpredictable Golden Zephyr open, plus pizza available for purchase at Pizza- Oom- Mow- Mow, and a DJ playing pop tunes over the area PA system. Most schools didn't go for it though, and it has been a very tough sell to get schools to pony up the same amount of money for a Paradise Pier Blast Off as last year's Tomorrowland version went for.

What has been extremely popular though, is the Blast Off parties being held at Downtown Disney's ESPNZone and House of Blues. The high school kids seem to be mirroring the rest of Disneyland Resort visitors, with Downtown Disney venues being extremely popular, but DCA not being much of a draw.

As mentioned in a previous update, the Grad Nite's themselves continue to be a mere shadow of what had been offered in just the past few years. Entire sections of the Park are closed off to the Grads, all the area entertainment and live bands have been cancelled, and there is no longer fireworks shot off the Castle or any little "extra's" offered. Only three food locations are now open, with extremely long lines developing at Coke Corner and Tomorrowland Terrace.

However, students attending this years Grad Nites are being given a photocopied sheet of paper as they enter inviting them to retain their Grad Nite ticket stub and receive thirteen dollars off a One Day Passport that is only good at DCA through September 31, 2001. That's the first time any sort of ticket discount has ever been offered to Grad Nite guests, and the unprofessional looking photocopied flyer that looks like it was produced by a secretary trying to hurry to her lunch break attests that it's a last minute ticketing ploy to try and bolster this summer's DCA attendance.

Every little bit helps at this point, when it comes to DCA attendance numbers.

 

Take My Map - Please!

Remember back in early February when Disney was predicting, and planning for, crowds numbering in the tens of thousands to show up for DCA's Opening Day on February 8th? As a keepsake memento, Disney had over 50,000 special Opening Day souvenir wall maps printed up to pass out to each visitor as they left the Park on that momentous day.

Although DCA's Opening Day was brilliantly sunny and mild, less than 9,000 showed up to celebrate the event before DCA quietly and lamely closed at Midnight. There were tens of thousands of souvenir maps left over. So, the next day they continued to pass out the souvenir maps to anyone who wanted one. Unfortunately, attendance that opening weekend never rose above 8,000 for a single day, even though the Park was open from 8:00 am until Midnight. Disneyland next door still managed to pull in it's usual 40,000+ weekend attendance numbers, but DCA was a ghost town for it's gala premiere. (Remind me someday to tell you the story about Eisner stalking around furious at the Grand Californian all weekend.)

Stuck with tens of thousands of Opening Day DCA mementos, Disney decided to start passing them out at "Company D", the onsite company stores that service CM's in the Parks, the Hotels, and back at the TDA administration building.

As you can guess, a few months later, interest in the wall maps had disappeared amongst Anaheim CM's, since almost all of them already had at least one or two. So then the thousands of leftovers were shipped up to Burbank and Glendale to pass out there.

But still, (sound familiar here?) there are thousands and thousands of maps left! What's Disney to do? They have boxed them up and shipped them out to Walt Disney World in Orlando, where they are now being given to any Florida CM that comes in the door at the many onsite Company D stores at WDW.

And what about after that? Maybe Disney could shred the remaining maps for use as confetti at WDW's Pleasure Island? Or how about those ebay auctions? Disney never throws anything away.

 

Readers speak out about DCA

Scott writes:

First, a comment... Please do a separate "Ask Al" for all the people that have comments regarding DCA. I am sick of reading the same 'ol negative comments and all of the wasted time you spend on these broken records. Enough people. let it go!!!

Sorry Scott - ignoring the problem won't make it go away. The numbers I see here on the site indicate to me that the majority of people are very interested in what is going on at DCA, and they seem to appreciate a forum (unlike many other places) where they can speak out about their experiences, both bad and good.

Maybe if Disney paid attention to the public BEFORE they they made the apparent mistakes they did, then we wouldn't have so many people writing in?

Why not just skip on past the things you don't want to read - and let the folks have their say. Maybe something good can come out of all the commentary.

Scott continues:

And now my question: From atop Tarzan's Treehouse you can see the top of a ship's mast and sail on the roof of a building in New Orleans Square. It resembles the Columbia. What can you tell me about it?

This one's easy - those masts were placed there to do one thing - hide the now unused Skytracker klieg type lights that were placed on top of the Pirates building a few years back. The masts help give the area a look of a New Orleans seaport, as they camouflaged those way too modern looking lights.

I asked around about the Skytrackers not too long ago, and why they weren't being used anymore. It seems (from what I was told) that they really didn't find a good way to use them. (They tried tying them into a fireworks show, which didn't quite jell - they then tried a timed series of quick light shows through the night, which apparently no one really looked at - and finally they were using them to do the night's closing announcement with, which by then most visitors had left for the day.)

I liked the lights because if you watched the beginning of the old first Disneyland TV shows with Walt, they actually had an animation of the castle with those same light patterns on the beginning of the show!

I was told another factor in their demise was that they cost a fortune to run, even before the current power crisis. They now mostly are stored backstage behind ToonTown.

You can skip to the end now Scott... as the DCA notes continue...

 

Reader Paul kindly (and ever so nicely) writes:

Love you guys. Never thought I'd be writing you. But today the camel's back broke. I am two park AP and grew up 6 miles from Disneyland. I've watched the inexorable spiral (I think I hear a flushing sound.) of my / our / the gold standard park as it swirls into the mire of Corporate homogenization.

On my visit today, I was surprised to see how beat up the print of "Soaring over California" has become. There were all sorts of big black UFO's flying all over the screen. Of course these were really just bits of film emulsion trapped in the projector gate, but on a screen so immense and close up it TOTALLY destroyed the illusion of what was just 60 days ago a world class attraction at an otherwise mediocre park. I read your column religiously so I won't rehash all of the other things I encountered today that were 101, dirty, ill maintained or otherwise a sign of the much greater sickness eating the parks from the inside. (No Space Mt. soundtrack is inexcusable in my book.)

But when I got to the Mission Tortilla "attraction" I was completely blown away when I watched the nice girl in the tortilla making machine demo area ax my beloved warm tortilla into two pieces, and give half to me and half to my wife. How much of a difference is 50% of a tortilla savings in a day really going to make?

Perhaps later in the week I'll be able to return to the Mission tortilla attraction and merely watch my tortilla being made and then bagged with 11 of its friends and then be offered for me to buy for oh, $2.99?

Who's paying to make the tortillas at the park? WDI or Mission? I suspect it is Mission. So why would DCA attendance make Mission want to appear as cheap and lately sleazy as DCA is?

There's a wonderful company here in the metro LA area called Buena Comida. They make better tortillas than Mission does. Sorry for the rant but I guess you're used to them by now.

Paul, I also noticed the same things you did. Egad, could it be I'm not the only one with these observations???  ;)

Imagineering honcho Marty Sklar promised in the L.A. Times when DCA opened that the dust in the film would work itself out once it got up and running for a few weeks. Sadly, he was wrong, it's only gotten worse. I was told the reason for this was simple - a budget cutback eliminated a clean box / room that the film would have been kept in.

As far as the half tortillas - well consider you now no longer have endure the short speech they used to make you sit through before you could enter the wonderful world of tortillas. ;)

From what I understand, they base the half tortilla procedure on what they think attendance may be - as they use the ones produced in the park at the next door Mexican fast food place, and over in Frontierland's disappointing Casa Mexicana redo "Rancho del Zocalo."

Weekdays with their slower attendance seem to get you those whole tortillas.

 

Reader Mark says:

I love the site and read it daily. I've never written in before, but I just had to comment on the announcement of the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire - Play It!" attraction for DCA.

Everyone knows "Millionaire" is filmed in New York. Last time I checked, the new park was called Disney's CALIFORNIA Adventure... I could understand if the show was filmed in L.A., but just how are they making this fit into the "California" theme?

Simple - it's a TV show, so it, er, um... belongs in the Hollywood area! Yeah, sure, Hollywood!

Now understand, there's NO real logic to this - but that is what will be happening for decades to come at this new park thanks to the fundamentally flawed concept DCA has been saddled with - they really boxed themselves in with this particular theme.

Guess they shouldn't have shopkeepers in charge of showmanship issues should they?  ;)

 

Reader Jim typed:

Al, I'm a big Disneyland fan and have visited about 10 times in the last 25 years from Portland, Oregon. My wife and I (no kids) visited over Memorial Day weekend.

I was pleasantly surprised with DCA and, even though I agree with much of your review, I absolutely loved it. Here's why. It was not crowded while Disneyland was packed. I guess that says something. They have wisely now implemented park hopping for those who have a 3 or 4 day pass. It was very nice to escape the Disneyland crowd for wider spaces.

I probably would not return to DCA if that was all that was there and sadly, not Disneyland either if that was all that was there. As much as I love Disneyland, I feel like it is really showing it's age (or maybe it's me). They really have not done anything to draw me back for a long time.

That's what made DCA a good reason to return and I just considered it part of the whole experience. I thought DCA did a fair job of capturing the California personality. I also liked the design of Downtown Disney, but the concept is probably not something Walt Disney would have endorsed.

My biggest complaints.

1. The new Resort design is not pedestrian friendly if you're not staying on the property. One of the first questions I had to ask someone, was: Where did the entrance go?

2. Cell phones everywhere, even on California Screamin'. Leave your weapons at the park entrance please!

3. Many attractions in Disneyland need a facelift, particularly 'It's a Small World'.

4. Behind the smiling image of Walt, the Corporate monster is at work.

My biggest compliments.

1. Clean as always.

2. Friendly staff as always.

3. The wider walkways in DCA.

4. The way the Corporate monster somehow makes us believe that Walt's vision is still alive.

Jim, first thank you for your kind and thoughtful note. You really have some terrific observations. Your compliments are dead on.

My biggest objections to DCA really apply to the one day visitor, as he is the one who pays the same price to get in as he would at Disneyland. This particular customer really gets the small set of mouse ears with this park. Now mind you - IF you've planned a multiple day visit - OR you have an annual pass - DCA can be considered a pleasant extension of your visit as you well noted.

But without accommodating those single day visitors, which are still by far the largest part of either park's visitor base (by offering some kind of low price one day park hopper) - they are going to continue to get looked at very harshly by the consumers, as well as myself.

Would I shut up if they offered a one day park hopper (at about a $20 price increase from the single day price)? It would depend. If I could see more people enjoying their day - then I would feel the park is finally delivering a more reasonable value for the price paid.

Mind you - that still wouldn't address the core problems - lack of attractions, too many movies and not enough e-tickets, way too many closed dining options, lack of kids friendly things to do - the list goes on. But I have a feeling it could buy them the time they need to really attack the problems.

I don't honestly think, in the middle of a power crunch no less, that the Electrical Parade is the type of answer needed here. Millionaire may not pay off either.

They really killed this park with the basic concept and they drove a stake through it to boot by putting in carnival rides, which people can see for what they are, cheap.

I don't think this is being negative - it's just focusing on what the very large (and very expensive) problems are that this park has.

 

Reader Ron takes us to task:

Why don't you have much info on these two Disney parks. Tokyo DisneySea appears to be an exciting new creative effort. Maybe we'll get a version in Florida or California.

FYI, I was told by a Disney PR person on Saturday at DL that Tower of Terror, Rock N Roller Coaster, a stunt show, and Millionaire attraction are coming to DCA. Also, Buzz Lightyear is coming to Disneyland.

Check out this link for Tokyo. ;)

I think you can count on most of what that PR person said as being true, for now at least. Unless of course it's the ever so charming Ray Gomez...

 

Speaking of Ray, reader Dan writes:

Hi, Al... This is Dan in Denver... Our family - all eight of us, ranging from young adult to grandma (who is 86) just returned from our first visit to Disneyland (a.k.a. the Disneyland Resort) in many years. I have a couple of questions for you, but first I thought you might be interested in a short review from someone who is not a California regular.

Disneyland itself is, as always, incredible. The park is still superior to the Magic Kingdom in Florida. Rides like Big Thunder and Space Mountain are much better executed in CA than FL. (Regarding maintenance, it was distracting, to say the least, to see the terrible shape of the paint and walls going into Space Mountain, something I don't think I've seen you write about.)

We also enjoyed Downtown Disney a lot. We all thought they did a great job with that. Nice shops, entertaining restaurants. Had a very nice breakfast at Rainforest Cafe.

Now, California Adventure. (Just a disclaimer - I'm the only one who reads MousePlanet, so no one else had been biased by the discussions on the website regarding this park... and I didn't say anything to them in advance.) On the traditional grading of A to F, California Adventure from our group received a resounding C-plus. It was pretty average, in everyone's opinion. Sure, there were the attractions that rated an A - like Soarin' and Screamin'... or a B - like the raft ride. Some were terrible (we really couldn't believe how bad Superstar Limo was).

We were especially disappointed in the show at the theater - Steps in Time. What a disaster. The story was inane and we all decided that the animation clips were shown above the stage to distract the audience so they wouldn't see how bad the dancing was. What a contrast when we saw the Amazement show in Disneyland the next day. First question... how could the same group be responsible for those two shows... one so good and one so bad?

The main conclusion we all came to was that there was very little to draw us back to California Adventure for a repeat visit? I had read a lot about there being little to do for small kids, but the fact is there isn't much to draw adults back either. For example, the California movie was good, but not interesting enough to see a second time. (Maybe California natives would feel differently.) Paradise Pier was fun to visit, but the coaster was the only thing worth repeating. And that soundtrack, while seeming clever for a while, eventually became highly annoying and drove us out of the area.

The Ferris wheel was okay, but what a disappointment to only go around one time after the loading cycle. Not worth waiting for. And now, the second question... do those silver rockets ever fly? We did drop into the park on two different days (mainly to repeat Soarin') and both days a sign was posted that the rockets couldn't operate because of high winds. Funny thing... there was only a very mild breeze. If you were walking, you couldn't even feel the breeze. What's with that?

And for the third question... did they really invest $1.4 billion in California Adventure? Or was that for the whole expansion, including the hotel and Downtown Disney. If that's the case, it sure looks like California Adventure got the short end of the stick. If they really did sink $1.4 billion just into the new park, where did it all go? It doesn't look like they should have even bothered opening that Hollywood section. The animation tour is nice, but, again, not something to draw you back.

Last question. What have you decided about the Ray Gomez recording? I'm sure that many PR professionals are curious about it... and [they are] always looking for new material to include in media training classes.

Thank you for your kind note Dan. Yes, while working on the exit at Space Mt. (to put in the ride photo booth) they pretty much blew off the entryway paint. Looked like Beirut there didn't it?

Four questions, four answers:

1. Both shows, Anamazement and Steps in Time are from two different Entertainment regimes. Read Sue Kruse's story about Steps in Time and you'll learn how it went oh so terribly wrong...

2. The Silver Rockets (named the Golden Zephyr, for some unfathomable reason) do not operate with wind speeds above 5 MPH. (Jumpin Jellyfish, the ride next door stops at 10 MPH). Unbelievable right? You'd think they would have checked out those things ahead of time. Expect a short life for this first cheap, and now very expensive (due to all sorts of retrofits) attraction.

3. The 1.4 billion is for the whole expansion - and yes, the park got the short end of the stick.

4. I am still awaiting a copy of the tape - at that point we'll make a decision as to what to do with it. With all the interest people have shown, we could almost make it a pay per play event I would think. ;)

 

Finally, reader Rusty writes:

Hello Al, I thought I send a quick note on some DCA observations I made recently.

I went this last Wednesday and saw two CMs standing at the entrance to Hollywood Backlot handing out "preferred seating" tickets to the next Steps in Time show. I noticed two more CMs near Off The Page doing the same. They were hitting up everyone, "Want to see a Broadway type show?" The tickets were just like FASTPASS tickets with the next show time printed on it.

There was filming going on in this area for a music video for Mya using the painted street on the Hyperion theater building as there background. Since this filming was obstructing the street a bit I don't know if the ticket pushing was due to this or that the shows numbers are so weak that they are trying something new. I had not seen this the other weeks I visited.

Of course Mulholland Madness was still closed as was the Golden Zephyr. I've been to the park 5-6 times now and the only time I've seen these two rides open was during the AP preview. I've heard that Mull. Madness does open now and again but yet to see it.

Also I saw the blue train on Calif. Screaming stopped at the flat emergency brake section after the loop (what do they call these sections?) and were escorting the guest off the train at this point. They did get CS up and running after a while.

For what it's worth. I do enjoy the new park as an AP holder going to a new Disney park (I wouldn't as a regular paying customer or parent). I like some of the atmosphere they created. But, I too think it is not a good value for the money with so few attractions and too many film based attractions. I don't think these kind of attractions demand much return interest.

Also, I find it quite odd how a park with not much to do for kids, aiming their advertising so much at kids. But you knew this already.

Hey, I enjoy reading your updates.

The Steps in Time ticket push has been going on for some time now - and yes it's a trick to try and pull more bodies in. A mixed blessing I think, since it only means more disappointed people. They appear to be pulling 300 to 500 people more per show with them.

The Screamin coaster is having continuing problems, as are the two other rides you mention. Funny, wasn't all that pre-testing supposed to address this very issue? I keep hearing expense cuts are to blame for this - I wish I knew for sure.

Don't get me started on the kids thing... ;)

 

A sad story:

Recently, while I was on vacation, a well known (and quite admired) Imagineer was pretty much put out to pasture by the company.

I'd go into more details, but the story got out and was presented in such a manner that it (very sadly) did a lot of damage.

Rather than make things worse, we'll keep mum on the subject for now, until there is a little more distance for all the parties involved.

No slams intended here - just expressing disappointment some "good guys" got hurt.

 

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6/25 Update - The spin is making me dizzy / The DCA fixes / Layoffs - La Harriss speaks! / McDonalds expands / Can't spend our Disney dollars when the cash registers are closed can we? / New at Disneyland / Disney box offices notes

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6/18 Update - "If it's good enough for Six Flags..." / Meanwhile - the ad campaign changes / Waiting for the other shoe to drop / Rehab notes / Speaking of rehabs...

Bears Be Gone

6/11 Update - Back from Vacation / Fall Down / Bears Gone After Labor Day / Fantasmic Reprieve - Electrical Parade update / Buzz Off (Ride) - Show's On - Carnival Crap / Atlantis Characters / Mr. Lincoln Cutbacks (of course) - More Disneyland News / DCA: More Ads - Same Attendance / House of Regis - other shots / Grads Just Say No To DCA / Take My Map - Please! / Readers speak out about DCA / A sad story

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